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how the mighty fall (in love)

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Every Victor Nikiforov fan has three things in common.

1. They have unrealistic expectations for romance.

2. They mark their calendars with the dates of his newest book releases and the premieres of his latest movie adaptations.

3. They either passionately hate or love his greatest rival, a mysterious author whose pseudonym is only two letters: “KY.”

(Ironically, every KY fan shares these same three traits.)

“Again?” Victor hisses, refreshing Twitter for the umpteenth time, because surely, surely this cannot be happening. He’d announced the release of his next novel only yesterday, and of course KY had chosen today to announce the release of his next novel. Fans are already scrambling to decide which book to preorder and writing Twitter rants that are hardly viable with a 140 character limit.

Yakov peers at Victor’s computer screen. Yakov’s publishing office is small, but effective—there are a few dozen employees under his supervision. Yurio Plisetsky interns there, and he’s often one of the first people to read over the rough drafts of Victor’s novels. His negative thoughts on dulcet romance are well-known to all, but Victor genuinely appreciates the objective opinions.

Right now, though, Yurio is snickering from in front of Yakov’s desk, legs propped up on it as he reclines in a chair. He’s chewing a wad of bubblegum—Victor figures he must be munching on at least five pieces—and watching them, amused. “Is something funny?” Victor inquires, pinching the bridge of his nose.

Yurio shrugs. “Do you think KY is sitting at his computer right now, thinking the exact same thing that you are?”

Yakov spares the blond a glance. Victor looks at him, too.

The intern shifts, seeming to revel in the response. “Think about it. It’s not like KY chooses to announce his books on the day of. I’m sure it’s a planned out thing, so it’s just unfortunate irony. I bet he’s just as annoyed about you two doofuses planning your release for mid-March as you are about him planning his release.”

They both stare at him for an instant, and then Victor huffs, turns back to his computer screen. He pulls open the Facebook comments on his last post.

How will I decide which book to buy? Why do they keep doing this? lol

He tries to dampen the urge to respond with simply: buy my book. Of course this happened. Of course. It happens every single time, without fail. At this point, countless fans have accused them of coordinating their book releases to maximize profits. KY has been silent on the matter, as he is on every matter, because nobody knows who the hell he is.

Victor has met his publisher before—a man named Celestino. Yakov and him are old friends, but even Celestino won’t release any information about his prized author. Victor, on the other hand, takes photos, does interviews, attends movie premieres. Emma Stone had been in his last movie adaptation, for crying out loud. But nobody even knows KY’s preferred pronouns.

(Victor has always thought of him as a him. He’s not sure why. In fact, whenever people address KY as anything but, it throws him off for a second.)

He licks his lips as he scrolls down. The official announcement of KY’s novel, courtesy of Celestino’s publishing company’s Facebook page, is there. Victor clicks on it. He reads the summary for his rival’s upcoming novel, History Maker.

Marcus Lloyd has, for as long as he can remember, loved the ice. It feels like a second home to him, even as he collapses to it, fingers splayed, after his failure at the Grand Prix Final. Can a mystifying, unpredictable world champion lead him to love and victory?

“I think that it sounds cheesy,” Yurio mutters.

Yurio has a limited edition collection of all of KY’s novels hidden underneath his bed. Victor knows that, but Yurio doesn’t know that Victor knows that. So he keeps his mouth shut. He’s saving that knowledge for a special occasion.

(Besides, Victor, too, owns every KY novel. Purely to research his competition.)

(Purely for research, he had told himself as he’d cried over the last one, titled On Love: Eros. Purely for research, he had told himself as he’d driven to the nearest Walmart to buy five more boxes of tissues and clung to his dog for the rest of the night, thinking about the character development and the plot and the perfect descriptions and—)

Purely for research.

“So he’s writing about figure skating,” Victor muses, shutting his eyes.

(Why hadn’t he thought of that first?)

Yakov seems to be able to read his thoughts, touching his shoulder and offering a sympathetic smile. “You’ll outsell him, Vitya.”

“I didn’t last year.”

“This one is a seller, I can tell.”

Victor’s newest novel is entitled Stammi Vicino, or, alternatively, Stay Close to Me. It’s about a man who is lost in life, aimless, and meets somebody at a party who changes his life for the better. It’s fantastical, a touch unrealistic, but Victor figures perhaps that is why it seems to come straight from the heart.

Either way, he can’t deal with this right now. He has a book signing for his last novel, Fragile as Glass, tomorrow. It’s at a large library in Detroit, of all places, and he’ll need to be at the airport first thing tomorrow morning. Therefore, he really doesn’t have time to dwell on KY’s incredible summary, which is still chilling Victor’s heart. It may have been cheesy, as Yurio had implied, but everyone is all too aware of KY’s abilities to spin emotions out of words, to make characters come to life.

 

~

 

Victor heads back to his apartment, throws his suitcase on his bed and begins haphazardly tossing clothes and items into it. This book signing is a large one—he’s already anticipating his cramped hand. He has a love of meeting fans, yes, but this love is often at war with his never-ending fear of carpal tunnel.

First, he packs his small notebook. It’s black, filled to the brim with sticky notes and ideas. Yurio, who had flipped through it once, had commented that it looked like what a monkey would write if he were trapped in a box and given nothing but pens and paper. Then, he packs his trusty laptop for heavy-duty writing. Victor always writes in monospace. Nothing but monospace. Twelve point font. Double spaced.

(He wonders, briefly, how KY writes.)

Then moves on.

He walks over to his bookshelf. The flight is fifteen hours, so he’ll need to stock up on books and movies. A familiar, internal war occurs, resulting from the fact that half of the books occupying his shelf happen to be written by his arch nemesis. The man who overshadows his every book release, every movie adaptation, who never comes out into the public and never, never comments on Victor. 

He plucks Stay by My Side by KY off of the shelf. One of his favorites.

(Purely for research.)

(But the moment it’s in his hands, he can’t wait until the plane, so he sits down cross-legged on his bed, opening the worn pages and starting with chapter one.)

He exhales, can’t help the smile that works its way onto his lips. The way that KY describes things is melodic, relaxing in a way that Victor strives for his own writing to emulate. It’s as though the reader is captivated, is there with him, as though one is reading about genuine experiences instead of just a fantasy.

Somehow, along the way, KY manages to make readers fall in love with the characters. Victor feels for the protagonist, his friends, his romantic interest—lets himself be devoured by the world that the author had spun. He has read this book several times before, but he manages to notice new things each time, easter eggs or little bits of dialogue that hadn’t stuck out to him the first time around.

He finishes it that night, at three in the morning.

So much for reading it on the plane.

Victor groans and rolls out of bed. It’s seven in the morning and he still hasn’t showered. His flight is in an hour. What a terrible, terrible idea. Yet he regrets nothing.

He grabs clothes out of his suitcase, revealing the tempting edge of his laptop. He pauses, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. After a brief hesitation, he picks his laptop up. He sets the clothes on top of his suitcase and opens the device, settling on the floor with his back against the edge of the bed, not wanting to fall asleep again by accident. The screen is ridiculously luminous, and he winces, lowering the brightness setting immediately.

Victor enjoys reading. Perhaps that is inevitable, as he is an author himself.

Therefore, he has two blogs for it.

Firstly, there’s his official blog. He posts comprehensive reviews of novels written by colleagues and strangers, answers fan questions, and poses his thoughts carefully, using proper grammar. He reads every post once, twice, three times before sending it out to the world for his fans to properly devour. 

And then there’s his second blog.

KY-fan1990.

It’s… Well…

He doesn’t have an explanation, really.

That blog, suffice to say, has a dramatic drop in poise.

Either way, he logs onto it now. He writes a long rant about how he'd just reread Stay By My Side, listing thoughts about the characters, the plot, the writing, his favorite parts, about how he cannot fathom living a life without having read this novel. KY-fan1990 has two thousand followers. Not bad, Victor thinks. However, he’s not in it for the fame, never has been—no, this blog really is for his own personal pleasure.

The moment he hits post, the replies start piling up.

There are people squealing along with him, and he starts typing out responses, no longer paying attention to the time. He finds himself grinning as he discusses characters, why they’d done what they’d done at the end of the novel, how KY had so perfectly crafted the story around the central theme of intimacy.

One comment in particular is like a pebble stuck in his shoe. It’s not an annoyance, necessarily, but a constant presence that is always prominent, that doesn’t seem to disappear no matter how hard one shakes. He has seen it before, of course. Plenty of times. Daily, at this point—if not hourly.

Who do you think they are?

He blinks, fingers drifting across the keys. Normally words come easily to him, but now he just licks his lips, thinks. Who is KY? It’s obviously something he has thought of countless times before, something he has pondered over. He imagines…

He imagines a nice smile.

That’s the easiest part to picture, for some reason. The rest he isn’t so sure about. Attractive, obviously. What sort of attractive, Victor isn’t sure. But he bets he’s beautiful in the same way that his mind is beautiful, in the way that he crafts scenes and artfully builds characters from reality, not fantasy. In the way that he’s an artisan, melding and mixing and creating pure escapism.

Victor ponders who KY is, yes, but he doesn’t ponder his response to the comment.

I think he’s a genius.

He hits post, then goes to shower.

 

~

 

Victor almost misses his flight.

A few fans stop him at the airport, and he takes hurried, low-quality selfies with them before making his way onto the plane, sweat evident on his forehead. The lady beside him on the plane is trapped in her own little world, a pink neck pillow behind her head and earphones plugged into her ears, some sort of movie playing in front of her.

He puts his backpack underneath the seat in front of him, reaches down and pulls out A Dream Too Large to Bear Alone. For a second, he glances around, self-conscious, because it’d be hard to explain press photos of Victor Nikiforov reading his arch enemy’s novel on a plane trip. But within minutes he’s devoured by the calloused pages, worn and torn with love and admiration.

When he takes a break, he pulls out his laptop, stares at his current work in progress. It’s good, but it’s not as good as KY’s content. Victor’s writing has good dialogue, solid descriptions, but that’s just it: it’s normal. Expected.

KY always manages to surprise him.

 

~

 

Detroit is cold.

(That’s his first impression, anyway.)

It occurs to him briefly that Celestino’s publishing office is somewhere in this city. He wonders if that means that KY lives around here, too. Pushing that thought away, he heads to the baggage claim, searches for his dark blue suitcase until it comes swiveling around. Victor grabs it and plops it down on the ground, scanning the crowd of drivers for a sign with his own name on it.

There’s a man holding a sign reading Nikiforov on it and it turns out he’s a fan, too, so he practically gushes about Victor’s works during the entire ride. Victor doesn’t mind, though. He’s used to the attention, takes the compliments in his grand stride, gives him a few details about his upcoming work. He calls them exclusive details, but, really, said ‘exclusive details’ are given to anyone and everyone who asks. A marketing strategy, of sorts.

Victor heads into the hotel, finds his room and lays down on the bed instantly. He has been here five minutes and he’s already exhausted. Then again, long flights have never failed to suck the life out of him. He yawns, pulling out his laptop and checking the activity feed for KY-fan1990 once again. There are about a dozen new comments. One in particular stands out to him.

Have you read any of Victor Nikiforov’s stuff?

He has gotten messages like these before. He deletes it. The last thing he wants to talk about on this blog is himself. No, this blog is dedicated entirely and unashamedly to KY. And that's that. So he responds to the other messages, droning on and on and on about the protagonist’s best friend in Stay by My Side.

Before he leaves for the book signing, he logs out of the blog, as is his tradition. The last thing he’d want is for somebody to trace his guilty pleasure account back to him.

Then he’s off. He hadn’t brought Makkachin to Detroit, as the plane ride is too much trouble for the poodle, but he knows that Yakov and Yurio are taking good care of him back home. He wears formal attire to the book signing—a black suit jacket and pants matched with a white dress shirt and a vibrant, floral tie. There are silver cufflinks that glitter in the sunlight, and as he walks he can see eyes turn to them.

There is whistling and cheering as he entires the large library, and he waves to everyone, flashing his best smile. Row after row of individuals waiting to meet him makes his heart giddy, and he sits down at the table, Sharpie in hand. He’s kind to each fan, greets them and takes photos with them. According to his security, he’s not supposed to give hugs—it’ll waste too much time—but he does anyway.

His most common demographic are people in their early twenties, yet there’s a large range at the signing, some younger, some older. It’s a good time, overall, people smiling and meeting and sharing their love of Victor’s novels. His hand hurts, but in the best possible way.

And then it’s over, so he clicks his pen, stretching out his aching bones.

The owner of the library is speaking to him at a million miles per hour, gushing about this and that and this and that, and Victor just smiles, standing up and throwing his suit jacket over his shoulder. He is turning a corner towards the exit of the building when, suddenly, somebody else is turning the corner in the opposite direction, hurried.

There’s a collision, but Victor doesn’t fall, just lands agains the wall with a thump. The individual whom he collided with, however, was less lucky. The man has landed on the floor, dazed. He scrambles back up to his feet, wide-eyed. Victor soaks in the sight of him—he’s absolutely stunning.

(Stunning to the point where it feels like a scene from one of KY’s novels, the protagonist frozen, heart pumping in his ears.)

The man’s hair is black, frazzled from the impact and the cold, and his glasses are wide, framing gorgeous brown eyes. His pupils are dilated to an unbelievable degree and he’s shorter than Victor, but not by much. His breath catches in his throat—Victor hears the noise of it as though it’s being amplified by loudspeakers—and there’s a look of realization crossing his features, changing them, shaping them.

“You’re… You’re you,” the young man mumbles.

Victor smiles. A fan.

Another person turns the corner, then, promptly plowing into the young man’s back. He catches him by his shoulders before he can fall, though, and then the two fans are staring at Victor in disbelief. It's not an unfamiliar scenario for Victor. It is rare, however, that he finds a fan so…

Interesting.

“We woke up late,” the second boy blurts, and he has dark hair, too, but no glasses. His skin is tanner, his eyes alight. Unlike the first boy, he appears confident, though just as surprised. “I’m really sorry.”

Victor blinks. The first man, the shyer of the two, hides behind his friend, looking as though he has just seen a ghost. The second man, the one who had spoken, is chewing the inside of his cheek. Victor glances back towards his security guards, who are giving disapproving looks, and reaches out for the copy of his book in the first man’s hands. “I don't mind giving two more signatures.”

The second man turns to the man with glasses, who is blushing violently now, holding his book in a death-grip as he silently extends it towards Victor. After Victor has signed the first book, the friend gives him a copy, and he signs that, too. Their names are Phichit and Yuuri. He takes more time than usual, writing his terse, usual xx Victor. “We love your books,” the one named Phichit says, making casual conversation.

Yuuri glares at him, then seems to notice that Victor had seen, so he smiles instead, the shock barely concealed behind caramel irises. “Yeah… I’m, um, sort of a big fan.”

“I’m flattered,” Victor responds, and he gives Yuuri a wink.

Yuuri’s breath catches, his eyes immediately glue back to the book, and Victor finds it absolutely adorable. “My favorite part was the ending,” Phichit says, shifting his weight to the balls of his feet. “I really loved the way you tied all of the plot points together. It was like… There was so much going on in the novel, so much that I forgot certain things were happening, but it just made the end so much more satisfying. You could tell it was well thought-out.”

Victor smiles, adjusting his floral tie, an explosion of pinks and yellows and soft oranges.

But then, to his surprise, Yuuri speaks.

“It wasn’t thought-out.”

He isn’t sure who is most surprised by the spontaneous comment—Victor, Phichit, or Yuuri himself.

Even one of the security guards inhales sharply, as though anticipating Victor’s reaction.

“What?” he asks, keeping his tone curious, because that’s what he is. Curious. Not offended, no, because it's obvious that Yuuri hadn’t meant it to be offensive. It seems to have been an observation.

Yuuri glances around, appears to notice that everyone’s attention is now focused solely on him. He’s wearing a scarf, and he tugs on it with one hand, an absent-minded action, Victor supposes. In doing so, he tugs it farther up, covering more of his mouth. “Um… I didn’t mean that like it came out. The book is great. But it’s not thought-out.”

Now Victor’s attention is fully captured. He raises an eyebrow, shoves his hands in his pockets and leans against the wall. “What do you mean?”

He’s blushing again, eyes glued to the library floor. “I just meant, um… If you read it, it’s obvious that you found the story along the way. Fragile as Glass is a story of spontaneity, and I think that in writing it, you were being spontaneous, too. Plot points sort of appear out of nowhere, but it works, because it fits the theme of the story. It’s like… It’s like you started with a basic idea, and you explored as you went along. But it works.”

There’s silence, for a while.

Then Yuuri is pushing up his glasses and looking as though his lip is about to start bleeding with the violent way that he’s biting it. “Sorry, that was stupid.”

“No,” Victor mutters in incredulity, then smiles. “That’s… You’re right.”

“He is?” Phichit blurts.

“I didn’t know where the plot was going,” Victor explains, and he has never admitted this to anyone before, not even Yakov, not even himself. “But it sort of found itself along the way.”

“That’s… That’s what I figured,” Yuuri replies.

“How’d you know?”

Yuuri doesn’t look as though he’d been anticipating that question. He stares at Phichit, long, as though hoping that he’ll answer for him. “Um…” he starts. “I… I’ve just read it a few times, is all.”

“Right,” Victor acknowledges, clicking his tongue.

“Thank you for the autographs,” Yuuri adds, horrified. Victor sees Phichit subtly touch his friend’s arm, comforting.

But Victor doesn’t want him to leave.

“Have you read KY’s work?” he asks, trying to keep the conversation flowing.

If Victor hadn’t been pouring all of his attention onto Yuuri, he may have noticed the way that Phichit tensed slightly, eyes flickering back and forth between them. But, no—instead he just watches Yuuri pale, licking his lips. A nervous gesture. Victor finds it endearing. “KY?” Yuuri asks after an abnormally long pause, so long that Victor had begun to forget about the question.

He holds Fragile as Glass in both hands, toys with the edge of the cover. Victor watches. KY is one of the most famous authors in the world, along with Victor, of course. They’re equally reputable, equally matched. “Surely you’ve heard of him?” he adds, a leading question.

“Right, of course,” Yuuri blurts, nodding. “KY. Aren’t you two…?”

Victor waits for a second. “Aren’t we what?”

There’s another pause.

Phichit clears his throat, breaking the tension. “We’d better get going. Thanks again for the autographs, Mr. Nikiforov. Your work is admirable.”

Yuuri makes eye contact with his friend, and Victor swears that a thousand unspoken words are passed between them in a hundredth of a second. But then Yuuri is mumbling a goodbye, and then they’re both turning around, and Victor needs to do something, something, he doesn’t know why or how or what but he needs to—

“Would you want to get coffee tomorrow?”

(Hurried words, spilling on top of one another like a tap with a broken drain.)

They both stop walking synchronously. Yuuri turns around on his heels, then glances left and right, as though making sure Victor is not talking to some other fans who had snuck in after his book signing. Victor flashes him his best grin, trying to look inviting, and folds his arms across his chest. Say yes, say yes, say yes, he chants internally, trying to will him with his eyes.

Then he remembers Phichit.

Mentally winces.

“Oh, that… That extends to both of you. I’m not flying back to Russia for a few days, and, well…” He flits his eyes back to Yuuri. “I like to keep good company.”

Phichit stares at Yuuri for a second, puzzled, and then instantly he’s smiling, tilting his head at Victor, the epitome of confidence. “Sorry, I actually have a thing tomorrow morning. Yuuri is free, though.”

“A thing?” Yuuri repeats, giving his friend a look.

“You know, that thing.”

He spares a glance to Victor, apologetic, then turns back to his friend. His voice is low, but not low enough. “What thing?”

“That thing that… The thing that I’ve been talking about for weeks now,” Phichit explains. “Besides, you love coffee.”

“I…” Yuuri starts, and it sounds like he’s about to argue, but then he notices Victor again, and he’s blushing hard, and Victor thinks about writing him, thinks about all the little mannerisms he could describe, thinks about how perfectly he would fit into a novel. He doesn’t know his last name, doesn’t know a single thing about him, but he knows he could write him.

In fact, it has been a while since he’s felt pure inspiration like this.

“Okay,” Yuuri says, like he can’t believe that he’s saying it.

“Okay?”

“I can… I know a place, I mean,” Yuuri answers, and it feels like he’s on autopilot, body working before his mind can catch up. “I’m guessing you’re staying at the nearby Marriott?”

He nods.

Yuuri glances at Phichit again, as though leeching off of his confidence. “Um, I can write down the name of the place, if you…”

“I’ll remember it.”

So Yuuri tells him the name.

And Victor remembers it.

And then they’re gone.

 

~

 

When Victor gets back to his hotel room, he’s grabbing for his laptop, plopping it down on the wooden desk and spinning the chair around so that he can sit. Then, he opens his work in progress, and instantly his fingers are flying over the keys, soaring and typing and creating. And it’s good, he thinks, as he reads over what he’d done so far. Great, actually. Probably better than anything he’d written in ages.

Time passes, the word count grows.

And he thinks of Yuuri, thinks of the mannerisms, thinks of the way he strives to write realism like that, strives to bring his characters to the life in the same way that that Yuuri is alive, full of color and, above everything else, remarkable. Victor doesn’t want to write flat characters that are desperately trying to come off as round, no, he wants to write characters that jump off of the pages.

Characters that will beat KY’s sales, that will give the other author a run for his money.

Yet, at the same time, as he writes he feels like Tantalus, the fruit always too high and the water always too low, an insatiable desire for better, more, better, more, at the tip of his tongue, glazing his every thought. He’s not sure what he needs more of, but he knows he needs more of something, and he knows he can get there.

 

~

 

Yuuri is already at the coffee shop when Victor arrives.

The place is filled to the brim, so he’s sitting at one of taller tables, his jacket on the stool beside him. Victor’s heart does a flip when he realizes that Yuuri must’ve been claiming the seat for him. He hurries to purchase coffee, then remembers that he doesn’t drink coffee. So he stares at the menu, unsure, until a man behind him clears his throat, obviously annoyed. Victor orders a latte. Surely that’s a normal drink?

When the drink is prepared, he sits down beside Yuuri, glancing out of the window.

In his peripheral vision, Yuuri doesn’t recognize him, just reacts to a figure taking the seat. “Oh, sorry, but I’m actually saving—Victor?”

It occurs to him, briefly, that Yuuri is already calling him by his first name. Phichit, on the other hand, had called him Mr. Nikiforov. He has never had particularly strong feelings about his own name one way or the other, but when Yuuri says it, it seems to roll off of his tongue in a way that Victor isn’t accustomed to. He likes it.

“Good morning,” Victor greets, holding his latte in both hands. The soft brown liquid is threatening to spill over the edges, a tiny bit of foam swirled in the middle. It’s warm, but not agonizingly warm, so he brings it to his lips and takes an experimental sip. Without meaning to, he scrunches up his nose at the unfamiliar taste.

Yuuri lets out a dry laugh. “You… You don’t like it?”

“I’m not much of a coffee drinker, actually.”

There’s an unspoken question on Yuuri’s lips, and it takes Victor a moment to realize that it’s probably something along the lines of: then why are we at a coffee shop? He’s glad that the question isn’t verbalized, though, because he’s not sure what his answer would be. Victor takes another sip, tilts his head back and forth, trying to adjust. “It’s an acquired taste,” Yuuri points out.

“Then maybe I’ll acquire it.”

“Most writers drink coffee.”

Victor sets the cup down. “Have you met a lot of writers, then?”

He’s wearing a blue scarf, different from the one he'd worn yesterday, tugged up to cover his chin, and the same black-rimmed glasses. Loose jeans cover his legs, which are wrapped around the legs of the stool, and a charcoal sweater is tight against his torso.

Victor, on the other hand, is wearing a white, long-sleeved, collared shirt tucked into a pair of black suit pants. He has a meeting later, and he had figured that he could kill two birds with one stone by looking good for Yuuri and for his meeting. He smooths his hands down his thighs, then leans forward and takes another sip of the drink. The taste is already growing on him.

“No, but it’s a stereotype,” Yuuri answers.

“Mmm. That makes sense.”

Yuuri is watching him, his gaze heavy. Victor meets his eyes, and he’s surprised when Yuuri doesn’t look away, maintaining the eye contact. “Can I ask you something? I don’t want this to come off as rude.”

Victor cocks his head to the side, signaling his approval.

“Why did you ask me to get coffee with you?”

“I appreciate an intuitive mind,” Victor answers with ease, because it’s true. “I thought we could talk more. I enjoyed our brief discussion last night.”

Yuuri licks his lips, then takes a sip of his own drink, which has whipped cream and caramel spread across the top. “So did I.”

“Which of KY’s novels have you read?” he asks conversationally.

“Wouldn’t you rather talk about your novels?”

Victor laughs, stirs the latte with a spoon. “Why would I? Do you think I just invited you here to stroke my ego?”

For a second, Yuuri looks scared, but then he seems to realize that it’s a joke, tension leaving his shoulders. He leans down and sips at his straw, readjusting it with two fingers when he doesn’t seem to be getting the results he’d like. “I don’t know. Like I said, I haven’t met many authors—sorry, I don’t mean to say…”

“So a stereotypical author drinks coffee and is arrogant?”

Yuuri laughs, and it makes Victor pause, the sound so shocking, standing out so much among the roar of the rest of the room, the buzz and chatter. “I guess so, yeah. But you don’t drink coffee and you’d rather talk about KY than yourself?”

For whatever reason, he feels defensive. “He’s talented.”

“He?”

Victor shrugs one shoulder. “I think he’s a he. Of course, everyone has their theories…”

“Why do you think that?” Yuuri asks, glancing around the shop. He appears to be self-conscious, now. Victor makes a mental note to dwell on the potential reasoning behind that later.

“The way that he writes,” he answers. “I could be wrong, but it just… Feels right.”

Yuuri nods, slowly, seeming to let that answer sink in. Then he seems to remember Victor’s original question. “I’ve read all of their works, actually.” There’s careful pronunciation on the their.

“Have you read all of mine?”

(Yes, he knows that he’s supposed to try and not be arrogant, but he can’t help it.)

There’s that flush again. Victor thinks it should be illegal. “I… Yeah, I have.”

The next question doesn’t need to be spoken—no, they both know what it is. Victor leans forward, a teasing smile on his lips, his elbows on the table in front of them. The cafe is small and they’re tucked away in the corner of it, wall-height windows surrounding them. There’s sunlight shining in, accentuating the furniture and people with more shades of gold than Victor had thought possible. There are a few individuals focused on their MacBooks, earphones dug deep in their ears and music so loud they’re oblivious to the world and bustle around them.

Victor recognizes their expressions. Writers, he thinks.

“I like your stuff better,” Yuuri admits, placing a hand on the table and examining his nails. “Your plots are more creative.”

“KY has better characters, better character development.”

“You have more world-building.”

“Better dialogue.”

“Debatable,” Yuuri states firmly, and there’s no signs of shyness anymore, and it reminds Victor of how he’d been the night before when he’d been talking about the beauty of spontaneity in regards to plot. A shining in his eyes. Victor glances back and forth between each of his irises, sees the way they’re flaming, ready to argue.

(So Victor argues.)

“You said you’ve read all of his stories?” he prompts.

Yuuri nods.

Victor shifts in his chair. “Remember Stay by My Side? The scene in the alleyway?”

“It wasn’t a bad scene,” Yuuri begins, “but Liam’s motivations shift in that scene in order to advance the plot. At first, he’s driven fully by his love for Eli, but then all of a sudden he’s doing what he’s doing out of fear.”

“It’s possible for a character to have more than one motivation.”

“I know, I know, but Liam was… The way that, um, KY wrote him, he was supposed to have this air of confidence, and that didn’t match him being motivated by fear, I don’t think.” There’s a pause as Victor waits for him to continue. “It just feels like Liam must’ve been based off of somebody in KY’s real life. He was a very dynamic character, but that part didn't quite feel right.”

Victor pulls out his phone.

Yuuri watches, curious.

He taps on the New Contact button, slides the phone towards Yuuri.

Silently, Yuuri enters his information.

Then Victor pulls up his Notes app, types something. “I’m going to reread that part and then get back to you. I need it fresh in my memory.”

“I’ll be waiting. Aren’t you…? Don’t you…?” Yuuri starts a few times, then stops.

“What?”

“You’ve read all of KY’s novels?”

Victor has. Several times. He nods. Normally, he wouldn’t admit that fact to anyone, but Yuuri seems trustworthy, and it isn’t as though he’s admitting to running a fan account praising his novels like one would a deity.

Yuuri’s gaze drifts back down to his drink, eyes following the trail of the caramel. He looks thoughtful, eyebrows drawn together. “Why?”

“He’s a good author. No matter what pronouns you use, KY is a good author. There’s no doubt about that.”

“But aren’t you…?” Yuuri starts.

(Rivals?)

(Enemies?)

(Nemeses? Constantly striving to outdo each other?)

Ever since Victor had arrived on the writing scene with his debut novel years ago, KY has been there. He has always been an unstoppable force in Victor’s life, and they ride parallel, releasing books and influencing each other without meaning to. It’s true that they’ve never met, yet Victor feels like he knows him—knows him through his stories and the unique way that his mind works, the way that he crafts worlds that often feel more real than the one that Victor lives in.

(Victor supposes he’s like an unquestionable truth, a constant presence. KY is KY like cold is cold, like warmth is warmth, like the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, like hard science, relentless mathematics. Above all: KY simply is.)

“He’s a good author,” Victor just repeats. In interviews, he had never praised the other author quite like this. He’d never shed hate on him before, no, but he’d always just avoided the topic. The fact that KY never says anything about him, never says anything publicly at all…

It wouldn’t feel right to talk about him.

It’s like there’s a silent, mutual pact between them.

“I’m sure he reads your stuff, too,” Yuuri muses.

Victor hums at that thought, glancing out the window. There are people shuffling past—everybody appears to be busy in Detroit, has a deadline and someplace to be. He likes the hustle of it, but he also likes the mellow feeling of St. Petersburg, which is also a large city but feels calmer, somehow. Perhaps it’s a comfort thing.

“Do you think so?” he asks, keeping his tone light.

Yuuri shrugs. “Probably. It makes sense, if you think about it. You were the number one bestselling author last year.”

Yuuri sure seems to know his stuff.

Victor realizes that most of his coffee is gone, now, and he considers the taste successfully acquired. “KY was the number one author the year before that.”

“And you were, the year before that.”

“And he was… And then I was… And then he was… Going off of that pattern, he should be the number one bestselling author this year. I’ve heard he already has a movie deal in place for History Maker, and that book hasn’t even been released yet.”

“I heard that, too, but I heard that he wants to write the screenplay.” There’s something odd about the way that Yuuri is speaking. Victor doesn’t know him well, obviously, so at first he’d just assumed it was the way he spoke, but now he’s certain… He’s holding something back. Like he doesn’t really want to talk about this, but he is, anyway.

“A screenplay, huh? Why would he do that?”

“He’s attached to the characters. Probably.”

“You’re very observant.”

All he receives in response to that is a half-hearted shrug. “Isn’t that why you asked me to have coffee with you? Or do you ask everyone who shows up late to your book signings out to coffee?”

Without missing a beat, Victor answers, “Only the cute ones.”

Last night, he hadn’t gotten a good look at Yuuri’s blush. But now, with the sunlight gleaming on him, he can see the beautiful nuances of it—it spreads to the tips of his ears, down across his cheekbones. He bows his chin, beginning to chew on his bottom lip. A nervous habit, Victor supposes. He watches it carefully, the pearly white teeth and the unconscious movements, subtle yet detailed if one looks close enough.

“I don’t, um…” Yuuri starts, then gives up quickly, fumbling with his hands in his lap, pad of his thumb brushing the knuckle of his index finger. Then he grabs for his drink, as though suddenly remembering that it’s there, and takes a long sip. When he meets Victor’s eyes again, he looks startled to see that he’s watching him. “You think…?”

“That you’re cute?” Victor asks casually, cupping his latte in his hands and taking another long sip. It’s completely empty, now, and he pushes the cup and plate away from him, focusing his full attention on Yuuri. He leans his elbow on the table in front of them, turns on his side so that his legs are facing him. His editors’ common advice rings in his ears. Body language is everything. “I said it, didn’t I?”

Yuuri nods, playing with his straw. He pulls it up, then plunges it into the thickest part of caramel, drinking. His expression is thoughtful, as though he’s letting that information settle. “Thank you, then.”

“That’s it? Just a thank you?” He doesn’t make it demanding, just curious, because he is—he’s curious. Curious about Yuuri with his caramel-flavored drinks and interesting expressions and adorable blush.

“What did you want me to say?” Yuuri asks, genuine.

Victor shrugs one shoulder. “Well, from what I know about you so far, you seem like a very opinionated person. In a good way. In a great way, actually. It has been a while since I’ve met someone with interesting opinions. I just thought you’d have an opinion on me calling you attractive.”

“Isn’t thanking you implying my opinion?”

“Flattered is your opinion, then?”

Yuuri looks slightly wary. “Flattered,” he confirms.

Victor’s gaze darts back and forth between each of Yuuri’s eyes, trying to figure out what he’s thinking. But he doesn’t push the subject. “Would you want to do this again tomorrow? When I’ve refreshed my knowledge of Stay By My Side and can have a proper debate with you on the alleyway scene?”

The change of topic seems to ease Yuuri’s tension. There’s a soft smile that spreads across his features, and it fills the room, sets fire to the sun, makes Victor feel like he could move a mountain if he were given the time and told the place. “I’d love to.”

“You would?” he asks stupidly, because obviously he would, because he’d just said he would love to, but that smile is making Victor’s knees weak and making his breath catch and if only, if only he could write a character like him, if only he could capture an essence like Yuuri’s with words, could even meekly attempt to capture something as alive.

“Yeah,” Yuuri just answers, and he’s laughing now, and that has Victor’s head reeling, has his normally articulate mind and vocal cords at a loss for what to do next. “Same place? Same time?”

Victor clears his throat, doesn’t break eye contact with him, because if his laugh and smile are beautiful, then his eyes are otherworldly, must belong to the cosmos themselves. “Sounds perfect.”

“Idyllic,” Yuuri adds, and his smile turns slightly teasing again. A few minutes ago Victor had been right there in the court with him, ready to tease back, but now he’s just being held captive by a man who doesn’t seem to realize that he’s a captor in the first place, who doesn’t seem to comprehend the effect that he’s having. “That’s what an author would say, isn’t it?”

“Halcyon,” Victor says automatically, trusting his subconscious vocabulary over his conscious mind any day.

“Splendid.”

“Paradisal.”

Yuuri laughs, sips his drink again. “That’s a little extreme for a date at a coffee shop, don’t you think?”

(Oh.)

It takes Yuuri a second.

And then there’s a hand covering his mouth, as though in an attempt to stop himself from saying anything else. “I didn’t… Um… Sorry, I didn’t mean that. I just meant… Not in that way. We just met. Not in that way.” He fumbles to grip his straw, sipping at a part of the cup that no longer has much liquid, horror seizing up his posture.

“Have you heard of a Freudian slip?” Victor teases.

Yuuri sputters on his drink. “That wasn’t…” Then, another look of recognition seems to cross his features. “Are you… Are you messing with me?”

“Partially,” Victor admits. “But you did sort of walk into it.”

“I did,” Yuuri agrees, then gives him another smile. Eased. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then?”

In and out, Victor coaches himself, because Yuuri seems to have shut down his autonomic functions. In and out, in and out.

He’s having coffee with Yuuri again tomorrow.

(He, Victor Nikiforov, is having coffee with Yuuri…)

Yuuri…

“What’s your last name?”

There’s a brief hesitation. So brief that if Victor hadn’t been watching him so carefully, he may have missed it. “Katsuki.”

Victor hums, letting that sink in. “Yuuri Katsuki. YK? That’s ironic.”

Yuuri laughs, but it’s shorter this time, less lively. “Maybe that’s why I’m a fan of theirs.”

There’s a silence, and it takes Victor a moment to realize that neither of them have stood up yet. He certainly doesn’t want to, so he waits until Yuuri grabs his cup, standing and taking one final sip before tossing it into the nearest trash can. “It was great to meet you, Yuuri Katsuki,” Victor tells him, liking the way that his full name feels on his tongue. He wants to see it written, he realizes. Wants to write it down and see how it’d look in cursive, in print, in Russian.

“And it was nice to meet you, Victor Nikiforov.” When Yuuri says his full name, too, it makes his stomach twirl. “This might sound weird,” Yuuri adds, as an afterthought, “but it feels like we’d already met. Through your books, I guess.”

He can’t explain why, but he feels the same way about Yuuri.

There’s something familiar about him, about the way that he speaks. He shrugs it off, gives him his own bright smile, but it can’t even compare to Yuuri’s. “You met me before I met you—how unfair. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“See you tomorrow,” Yuuri promises.

Victor walks a ways down the street, towards his hotel, but looks over his shoulder before turning a corner. In the distance, he sees Yuuri walking in the opposite direction, his friend from last night glued to his side. Phichit, Victor remembers. He chuckles at the sight, then shoves his hands in his pockets and continues to walk.

There’s a stride in his step.

He has a Skype call with Mila later, and she notices. Of course she notices.

“You’re awfully chipper,” she points out, tapping her pen on the desk. It’s an offbeat rhythm, the type of habit that would normally bother Victor if were trying to focus, but now he can’t seem to mind it at all. “What happened?”

If he’s being honest, he has been waiting for an excuse to bring up the topic. “I met someone.”

Mila’s azure eyes light up, she leans closer to the camera. “You did?” Then, her expression falters. “Oh, Victor, in Detroit?

He knows it’s inevitable that he’ll have to leave Detroit eventually, but that doesn’t mean he won’t visit again. Doesn’t mean that this can’t work out. Perhaps he’s jumping to conclusions, because yes, they’d only grabbed coffee one time, but Yuuri had been lovely, and Victor finds himself already wanting to talk to him more, wanting to spend more time with him. If he could’ve remained at that coffee shop all day, he would have.

But he doesn’t want to be clingy.

(Except he does.)

“Yes, in Detroit,” he answers.

“Who is he?”

He tells Mila everything—from his blue scarf to his eyes, which Victor is still trying to figure out how to describe, to his hair, to his laugh. She listens intently, chiming in when necessary. At some point, though, Yurio bursts open her office door and chooses to ruin the moment. “Mila, I want—oh. Who are you talking to?”

In a second, Yurio is behind the computer screen, staring at Victor. Mila ruffles his hair. “Victor met someone in Detroit. Isn’t that great?”

Yurio groans. Then he growls, and Victor figures Mila must’ve kicked him in the shin. He gives a fake smile. “Good for you, I guess.”

“Great for him,” Mila corrects, wrapping an arm around Yurio’s shoulders. He rolls his eyes but doesn’t move out of her grasp, and Victor smiles. Mila has essentially taken on Yurio as a little brother ever since she’d come to work for Yakov.

“KY lives in Detroit,” Yurio reminds him. “You should go to Celestino’s building while you’re there, find out who they are once and for all. This whole mysterious pseudonym thing is dumb, if you ask me. Like, why hide if you could be famous?”

“Because everybody wants to know who he is,” Mila points out. “It’s smart. Garners attention and publicity.”

Victor shakes his head. “No, that’s not why he does it.”

They both look at him, confused.

He sighs. “KY isn’t hiding who he is—or who they are—as a publicity stunt. He’s just reserved, probably the type of person who doesn’t want fans pointing him out on the streets.”

“How do you know that?” Yurio asks.

“Just a feeling,” Victor muses, grabbing another pillow from his left and propping his head up with it. He settles on the bed, getting more comfortable. “I feel like I know him, after all of these years. Don’t you?”

Yurio snickers. “I’ve never read KY’s books like you have, Nikiforov. You say that you’re just researching the competition? Yeah, no way. I think you’ve got a crush on a person that you’ve never even met.”

“A crush on him?” Victor scoffs. “That’s ridiculous.”

Despite his outward rejection of the concept, Victor nurtures it in his mind.

(A crush on KY’s writing, maybe.)

(But a crush on KY himself?)

(No—impossible. Victor could never fall in love with someone he has never met.)

 

~

 

“I reread the alley scene,” Victor tells Yuuri the following morning.

He has a latte again.

Yuuri has his same caramel drink. Today, he’s wearing a white sweater, the sleeves cuffed, and the same sort of loose-fitting jeans. No scarf, Victor notices happily, because that just means he can have a better look at his face. “And?” he asks.

“I disagree with you about Liam’s character. I see what you meant about him being based off of somebody in real life, but that’s just it—everyone has fears. Just because there’s another side to his character doesn’t make that scene forced. He was still in love with Eli, and that love led to an underlying feeling of rejection. See, the love and the fear, they were intertwined. Perhaps it felt out of character to you because Liam himself felt out of character.”

Yuuri looks surprised, lips parting before closing again. “That’s… That makes sense.”

Victor can’t help but feel proud. He preens, sips his latte. “Does it?”

“Because when it comes down to it, all of Liam’s strongest emotions revolved around Eli—the only person he ever felt strongly about.”

“Exactly,” Victor agrees. “It’s sweet, a love like that. Don’t you think? KY expresses it well. I wonder if he’s in love himself.”

Yuuri shrugs. “M-maybe. I don’t know.”

“I think he is,” he adds, tracing his finger around the edge of the cup. Yuuri watches the movement, and it makes Victor feel powerful, capturing his attention like this. Makes him giddy with excitement. “Or, he must at least understand something akin to love. Adoration, maybe.”

“What about you?” Yuuri blurts, and then he flushes tomato red, as though he’d begun regretting the words the second they’d left his lips. “No, sorry, I didn’t mean… I just meant… For your writing?”

“Am I in love?” Victor purses his lips, looks out the window and leans his elbow on the table. He looks at Yuuri, keeps his gaze unmistakable. “I suppose it depends.”

Yuuri looks surprised. “Depends on what?”

“Do you believe in love at first sight?”

He just laughs, avoiding eye contact with Victor, retracting both physically and mentally. “Oh. Who… Did you… You saw someone and fell in love? That’s, um, nice.” A nervous tick, he picks up his drink and takes a long sip.

Enchanting, Victor thinks. He could write about him for hours, craft prose about every minuscule detail of his actions, appearance. Who needs endless loops of the same five instrumental songs for inspiration when Yuuri Katsuki exists? He’s eloquent yet clumsy, confident yet shy, an intriguing self-contradiction, perfection in the most imperfect way.

“I was flirting with you,” Victor tells him, purely to see how he’ll react.

(He reacts, apparently, by choking on his coffee.)

“With me?

“Yes.”

“On… On purpose?”

“Do I seem like the type of person who would do that on accident?”

To his surprise, Yuuri doesn’t look quite as flustered as he had before. Instead, he looks interested, as though he’s trying to read something on Victor’s face. Victor desperately wants him to see what he wants to see, but he’s not exactly sure what that is, so he keeps his expression interested, but not too interested. “You do, actually.”

(It’s Victor’s turn to be surprised.)

He tries to figure out what he means by that—tries to come up with a witty response but his mind fails him, leaving him awkwardly staring at Yuuri, trying to compute what had just happened. “I do what?”

“You do seem like the type of person who would flirt on accident,” Yuuri elaborates. As if to qualify the statement, he adds a halfhearted shrug. Qualifying is something that Victor is intimately familiar with—Yakov has always told him that he can tell when Victor isn’t passionate about a scene by constant qualifications to every action and piece of dialogue.

So he can read right through this visage.

“What do you mean?” he asks.

Yuuri does that same shrug. “Just, you’re very, um… Outgoing, I guess? And I could see how people—not me, this is just an objective observation—could see that as, er, coquettish.”

“Coquettish,” Victor repeats, enunciating each syllable. “Has anyone ever told you that you have an excellent vocabulary?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Have you considered writing?”

“No, not really.”

There’s a pause.

A knowing smile from the man sitting beside him.

Something heavy in the air between them.

(Something heavy tied with words and drips of coffee, book titles and eye contact.)

Victor is living off of it, loving every second of it, because he can tell that Yuuri is on the exact same page of the book as he is, that they’re in the exact same ballpark. “Well, I’d like to confirm, for the record, that I’ve never flirted with you accidentally.”

Yuuri’s nervously clenched jaw betrays his calm demeanor. “You have purposefully, then? I must not have picked up on it.”

“So telling you that I may have fallen in love with you at first sight wasn’t obvious?”

“I meant before now,” Yuuri adds, and there’s that qualification again.

Victor smiles, leans forward. “Calling you cute? Asking you out for coffee? Oh, Yuuri Katsuki, for somebody as intellectually inclined as yourself I expected more of you. Of course I’ve been flirting.”

“Oh,” he simply says, sipping his drink.

“Oh?”

“Just, oh, as in I hadn’t realized.” Then, he falters. “Not a bad oh, just an oh.

After he takes another sip of his drink, there’s a dollop of whipped cream on his cheek. Victor reaches out and swipes at it with his thumb, then licks the digit, humming appreciatively. It’s worth it for the way that Yuuri’s pupils go huge, like black holes threatening to swallow his irises whole. “Do you believe in love at first sight, Yuuri?”

He shakes his head, and when he speaks it looks as though he’s not even thinking about it, as though his thoughts are enraptured completely by whatever he’s still trying to find in Victor’s crystalline eyes. “I believe in attraction at first sight.”

“And have you experienced such an attraction?”

A hesitation, then a nod.

“Often?” Victor adds, because he can’t help himself.

A shake of the head.

His heart is pounding, aching, but he needs Yuuri to make the next move, needs to know for sure that he is feeling the same way, that he’s thinking the same things. Luckily, Yuuri speaks next, appeasing Victor’s sudden worries. “Will you still be in town tomorrow?”

“Yes,” Victor answers without hesitation.

Yuuri stands up. “Same time same place?”

“Sounds like a date.”

It doesn’t take long for Yuuri to realize what he’s referencing, and then he’s stammering, trying to find words to say to defend himself but failing miserably, ultimately choosing to throw away his cup so that he has an excuse to cross the cafe. “See you tomorrow,” he decides on, and it makes Victor a little too joyful to see that even the tips of his ears are red.

“See you, YK.”

“YK?” Yuuri asks, holding the door open with one hand.

Victor grins, slipping past him, their shoulders brushing. The touch is electric. “It’s a nickname. Like KY? Get it?”

“Right,” he says, but his smile has faded, doesn’t look quite as genuine. In a flash, though, that look is replaced. He waves. “See you, VN.”

Chapter Text

“Yuuri, you know what you have to do, right?”

Yuuri knows what Phichit is about to say. He presses his forehead against the counter island in their kitchen, wraps his ankles around the legs of the silver stool that he’s currently sitting on. “Phichit…”

“Tell him,” Phichit urges, touching his friend’s shoulder and squeezing it.

He has considered telling Victor his secret a thousand times over the past three days. But Victor flies home tonight, all the way to Saint Petersburg. “I won’t see him again,” Yuuri points out. “There’s no point in dropping a bombshell like that if I’m never going to see him again. If I don’t tell him, he’ll just forget about me, and then we can both move on.”

Phichit’s jaw drops. “Move on? Yuuri—move on? Move on? No no no, you’re not moving on, he’s not moving on. You said explicitly stated that he was flirting with you. Like, beyond a reasonable doubt, he was flirting with you.”

Yuuri almost says, I’m sure he does that with everyone, but he already knows how Phichit would respond to that outrageous suggestion. So instead he keeps his head down, sighs and thinks of Victor. He has always been a rabid fan of Victor’s, watching interviews and devouring his novels. So when he’d heard that Victor would be doing a book signing in Detroit, he and Phichit had planned to go immediately. And then, of course, they’d missed it and showed up late. And then Victor had asked Yuuri out for coffee. He hadn’t wanted to go, because the notion of anonymously getting coffee with his greatest rival is ridiculous, but Phichit had worn him down.

(And he doesn’t regret going. Can’t regret going. His conversations with Victor at that coffee shop have been incredible. The other man is charismatic, just as one would imagine he would be from his books and interviews. The conversation flows freely and loosely. Not to mention his eyes, his hair, his stunning laugh and smile and—)

“Snap out of it,” Phichit says. “You’ve got to meet him in an hour, right?”

Dazed, Yuuri looks up and nods.

This is potentially his last time getting coffee with Victor.

“Are you going to tell him?” he asks, one more time.

Yuuri nibbles on his lower lip. “Listen, Phichit… I know you have this wild fantasy in your head of us getting married underneath cherry blossom trees, but the fact is that he’s going back to Saint Petersburg and I’m staying here. We’ve had a nice time together, but he knows that today is the last day we’ll see each other, and I don’t want to complicate things.” He looks back down at the counter. “I just… I just want to have this. I don’t want to taint it. I just want to have this, this past few days with him.”

Slowly, Phichit nods. He squeezes Yuuri’s shoulder again. “Okay, okay, I understand. And hey, at least you know that Victor reads your novels now, right?”

He’d been wondering about  that for years. Yuuri, of course, reads all of Victor’s novels. Watches all of his movies. Phichit is a fan, too, but not quite as serious. His friend is more into mystery novels, action and adventure. Yuuri and Victor’s works are ones of emotion, twirling tales of romance and people. Simply thinking of the way that Victor describes love sends goosebumps up and down Yuuri’s arms—he’d admired the other writer for years.

And now he’s flirting with you, and doesn’t even know it, a voice in his head tells him.

He shakes that voice off, focuses on what Phichit had told him instead. “Yeah, I guess,” Yuuri responds, offering a smile that he doesn’t feel.

“Now let’s get you an outfit for today. Something that’ll make Victor write fifty novels dedicated to you and have him eating out of the palm of your hand.”

Laughing, Yuuri lets Phichit lead him to his closet, where they begin picking out clothes.

 

~

 

He’ll ask Yuuri out to lunch today.

Because it’s Victor’s last day in Detroit, and coffee won’t cut it. Coffee drains too quickly, the conversation feels like it will inevitably be cut short. Plus, he wants to tell Yuuri something, something he’s not sure how to phrase yet.

In simplistic terms, he wants more. More coffee dates and more teasing and more of Yuuri himself, wants to get to know him, his ticks and favorite things and life, but they haven’t known each other long enough to start a proper long distance relationship, have they? So how can Victor tell him that he wants more without scaring him off?

He has his phone number. He could find time to visit Detroit again, make excuses for it. Yakov would disapprove, probably, but that’s of no concern. What is of concern is Yuuri—the way he smiles, laughs, talks. Victor wants more of all of it, and if Yuuri will have him, he’ll have Yuuri, and that’s that.

So, as step one, he’ll ask Yuuri to go to lunch with him.

Victor dresses more casually than usual. He dons a white t-shirt and a brown trench coat, fixes his hair several times in the mirror before deciding that it’s perfect. He should be spending all of his time in Detroit writing and working, but he can’t bring himself to regret spending time with Yuuri instead. Besides, it feels as though the other man has done wonders to alleviate his recent lull in inspiration.

Lunch, he reminds himself as he approaches the coffee shop. He’ll ask Yuuri to lunch after they’ve had their coffee.

“YK,” he says as he slides into the seat across from him. They’re not at the high table this time—now they’re at a low one in the middle of the shop, which isn’t as busy as usual. It’s colder out, and he figures that must be why. Yuuri is wearing a puffy black jacket and his slender fingers are covered by gloves. But what catches Victor’s attention is his hair. His hair, which is slicked back, which Victor wants to touch with an insatiable desire. No amount of time spent crafting words could represent how he looks. It’s almost frustrating.

Seeing where Victor’s focus lies, Yuuri pushes his hair back with his hand. “Good morning.” He looks sad, almost, but Victor knows why, because it’s the same reason that he’s also sad. He leaves tonight.

Instantaneously, though, that pretense is gone. They’re talking about novels and creations and characters, dialogue and diction and the beauty of the written word, languages and translations and puppies. Everything and nothing at the same time. While they’d initially only ever focused on their obvious, shared interest, Victor notes with joy that their topics of conversation seem to flit about more randomly, now.

“What do you do?” Victor asks, because it occurs to him that he doesn’t know.

“What do I…?” Yuuri starts.

Victor has his chin on his folded arms, looks up at Yuuri with a smile playing on his lips that he can’t seem to get rid of. He’s in love, he thinks. Must be in love. In love with Yuuri's lips that can either be so articulate or so clumsy, those lips that would probably be warm underneath Victor’s own, that would part when they kissed and that would mutter his name, maybe, in that same that Yuuri always says his name, the ‘k’ extra sharp, the ‘v’ extra soft.

(Yurio had called it infatuation.)

(Victor can’t bring himself to care what it is—not when he’s looking at those lips.)

“Where do you work?” Victor elaborates.

Yuuri’s breath catches. For a second, he falters. Victor wonders if it’s embarrassing—then it occurs to him that Yuuri may be unemployed, that his question may have been insensitive. But Yuuri answers before he can delve too far into these thoughts. “I… I actually work at a publishing company.”

Oh.

(Oh.)

“Celestino’s?”

After another awkward hesitation, Yuuri nods sharply. “It’s… It’s just a desk job though. Doesn’t even have to do anything with the publication itself, really. Just taking calls and… And… Stuff like that.”

“And your friend Phichit? Does he work there?”

“Yeah, he does,” Yuuri says, and the former tension seems to be gone. “He’s a bit higher up. He edits, actually.” A pause, then a stumbled addition, “Not for KY though.”

Victor can’t help but be interested. “But you’ve seen him, surely.”

“Seen who?”

“KY. If you work with him, you must’ve seen him.”

“It’s a… It’s a big company. And he doesn’t come in, I don’t think. They. They don’t come in. I see Celestino, but not KY. Nobody knows who they are.”

He’s lying, Victor thinks. Definitely lying. But he also looks scared, and Yuuri being scared isn’t a sight that he likes, so he decides to drop that particular train of thought. He’s certain that he has a good reason for lying, and it’s not as though KY’s identity influences anything between them. “Do you like working there?”

Yuuri smiles, thankful. “I do. Everyone is very nice.”

The conversation continues to flow, they stray off of the topic of Celestino’s publishing company rather quickly. Their drinks are drained, they catch one another glancing at lips, hands, chests. Victor feels butterflies in his stomach like he has never felt before when it’s time for them to part. He knows what he wants to say, but he doesn’t know how to say it.

Which is unfamiliar, because words have always been Victor’s strong suit. They have always made sense to him, whether in Russian or English, and yet here he is, floored by a man with a smudge of caramel on the corner of his lips and jeans that are frayed at the knees.

(Floored.)

(Absolutely floored.)

“Lunch,” Victor says.

Yuuri doesn’t hear him. He’d been throwing away his cup. He turns back to Victor, offers a sad smile. “What?”

“Lunch,” he repeats. “Come to lunch with me.”

“Okay,” Yuuri answers, and it’s simple, isn’t it?

Simple—the way it should be.

Victor walks down the street with him. He doesn’t know any restaurants in Detroit, but Yuuri knows a nice, casual place just a few blocks away. All he can focus on, though, is Yuuri’s hand in close approximation to his own. He can practically feel the warmth of his skin radiating through the air between them, and when they turn a corner their fingers brush.

It’s like playing with fire, he thinks. So beautiful and bright and intense, magical, captivating, a work of nature, yet so easy to make a mistake with. He doesn’t want to scare Yuuri off, doesn’t want to come on too strong. Luckily, so far, he thinks he has been making the right moves, thinks he hasn’t messed this up yet.

“Is this okay?” Yuuri asks, and it is, even though Victor hasn’t so much as spared the restaurant a glance yet.

“Perfect,” he responds.

They sit down at a booth. It’s Italian food, which Victor enjoys. He orders a sandwich, Yuuri orders a pasta dish. “Phichit’s favorite place,” Yuuri explains, sipping at his water. He takes the lemon out, pinches it with his thumb and forefinger, and places it on the small plate to his left. Victor does the same.

“So what do Celestino’s cute employees do for fun here in Detroit?”

Yuuri smiles, but he doesn’t blush—it would appear he’s becoming immune to Victor’s relentless advances. “Oh, you know. Wild trips to the strip club.”

Victor gags on his water, brings his elbow to his mouth to try and cover the coughing. Their waitress, who sets their food down on the table, gives him an odd look. “What did you say?” he asks Yuuri, scandalized.

“I’m just kidding,” Yuuri promises, looking satisfied. “You’re easy to fluster, huh?” He starts poking at his food with his fork, twirling some pasta around it. When he brings it to his mouth, the morsel disappears behind pink lips.

“I can honestly say that I’ve never been told that before,” Victor remarks. His sandwich is delicious. All the more reason to stay in Detroit, he thinks. Good food.

Yuuri smiles at him softly, then excuses himself to go and find the restroom. Victor glances around the restaurant appreciatively. It’s the type of place one would describe in a novel—filled with interesting characters with interesting stories. There are people laughing, discussing—their waitress has a long scar above her eyebrow that Victor figures must have a tale associated with it.

There’s a woman sitting alone with a book in front of her and an empty plate by her side.

(He wonders, briefly, if Yuuri has ever read one of his books while here.)

The thought makes warmth spread to his toes.

Yuuri had left his phone on the table, right beside his plate. The screen lights up, the phone vibrates. It’s close enough that Victor doesn’t have to move or strain his eyes to see it.

Where are you?

It’s from Phichit. Victor is a millisecond away from taking his eyes off of the phone when it buzzes again, and he can’t help but read the following text, too.

Are you still with him or are you on your way home? Will you tell him about KY? I was thinking about it and…

The rest of the text is cut off.

Victor pulls his chair back like the table is made of fire.

How…

But how…

How could he…

This makes no sense.

It makes absolutely no sense, because how could it make sense?

Whenever Victor begins a story, he lists out what he knows. So that’s what he’ll do now.

1. Yuuri has always acted flustered when speaking about KY. He talks with ease about the novels themselves, has read all of them, but the topic of the author has him stumbling over his words.

2. Yuuri knows plenty about KY, though. Probably knows more about KY than anyone else in the world, given his intricate theories and thoughts on his novels, the symbolism and meaning behind his words.

3. Yuuri works at Celestino’s publishing company and he’d been lying when he’d said he didn’t know who KY was—Victor is certain about that.

Everything adds up, everything clicks together, leading to one, inevitable conclusion.

A conclusion that he has been spiraling toward from the very start.

Phichit is KY.

Everything adds up.

But before he can consider every potential counterargument, Yuuri is sitting back down. He checks his phone, and if he reacts to the texts, it doesn’t show. Then, though, the device is by his legs, and his undivided attention is put back on Victor. Victor’s head is reeling, his thoughts twisting and turning. Yuuri’s detailed knowledge about KY makes sense if he is best friend’s with him. He’d even said, once, that KY wanted to try writing a screenplay. That tidbit makes sense now, too.

So Yuuri had lied to him.

(Well, a lie by omission.)

(But not a lie by omission, technically, because he had claimed that he didn't know who KY was.)

Quickly, though, Victor shakes these thoughts off. Obviously Yuuri had just been trying to protect his friend. It doesn’t mean he’d lied about working for the publishing company, or anything else. It was a lie for Phichit, not specifically in spite of Victor.

Victor won’t tell anyone that Phichit is KY.

After all, it’s not as though this changes anything. He does wish he’d gotten to know Phichit better during his time in Detroit, though. The way that KY’s mind works has always fascinated him, and those inner workings don’t seem to match up with the brief glimpse of Phichit that he’d gotten. Don’t seem to fit. It must just be because Victor hadn’t gotten to know him well. 

“What are you thinking about?” Yuuri asks before taking another bite.

For the time being, Victor decides to push thoughts of KY out of his mind.

Because this, Yuuri sitting in front of him—that hasn’t changed.

(It’s miraculous, in a way. Victor had just discovered the secret identity of a man who had been his rival for years and years, a man who he runs a fan blog for, a man who he had theorized about and had endless daydreams about. And yet, somehow, this news feels pale in comparison to the fact that he’ll have to leave Yuuri and Detroit tonight. It shocks him, how little excitement he feels about Phichit being KY.)

Not that he dislikes Phichit.

He had certainly seemed nice.

(But Yuuri?)

(Yuuri is…)

“You,” Victor admits, because it’s not a lie, is it?

“You’re thinking about me?” Yuuri asks, and he still sounds surprised.

Victor nods, squints at him. “I’m thinking about how I don’t want to leave tonight.”

He sees Yuuri’s face tighten as he pokes at the pasta with his fork. Victor feels his chest constrict. “Maybe you’ll…” Yuuri clears his throat, shakes his head.

“What were you going to say?” Victor hurries to get the words out, eyebrows drawing together.

“It’s stupid,” Yuuri promises, waving his hand, as though that’ll get rid of the tension between them, as though that’ll dismiss the topic.

Victor hangs onto it. Refuses to let go, because it feels like hope. “Say it. Please.”

Yuuri licks his lips. “I was going to say that… That maybe you’ll come back one day. Just… I don’t know. Another book signing, or… Or something.”

It takes Victor a second.

Because, even as a writer, he’s not the best at reading people. Or, at least, that’s what Yakov has told him in the past. So it takes him a second, but then he realizes what Yuuri is afraid of, what is causing that horrible edge to his tone and that sad look in his eyes.

“I’d call,” Victor says, and it’s barely a whisper, because he can’t believe Yuuri would think otherwise. “I’d tell you. Of course I’d tell you if I came back.”

Yuuri meets his eyes, searches them. “You would?”

“After I call my ten other boyfriends waiting for me in Detroit, yes.”

He laughs, ducks his head, and Victor wonders what influence meeting Yuuri will have on his next novel. Will his characters be more vivid? Will the love interests all turn out like him? Will they laugh as beautifully as he does, look as lovely as he does underneath the soft lamps of the restaurant? How will they compare?

Surely they won’t, he decides as Yuuri brushes his hair back with his hand.

“You know, Yuuri,” Victor tells him, reaching across the table to take Yuuri’s hand for the first time, lacing their fingers. “I’ll miss you.”

“We can text,” Yuuri suggests.

He feels heat rush through him at that idea, feels his lips turn up into a smile. “Yeah. I’d like that.”

 

~

 

They walk out of the restaurant together.

It feels wrong, parting like this.

Unnatural.

Yuuri hugs him, ducking his nose into Victor’s shoulder and breathing in. Their height difference causes Yuuri to stand on his tippy toes and Victor holds him tight, trying to revel in the moment, trying to capture every detail of it perfectly in his memory so that he’ll be able to relive it in his mind. Yuuri’s hair is soft against his cheek, he smells like lavender and Victor wonders, briefly, if that’s the scent of the shampoo that he uses.

(He wonders if he’ll ever find out.)

And then he’s on the plane, and there’s already something eating away at him. A word that Yurio had used yesterday rings in his ears: infatuation. Already entranced, and he hadn’t even known the guy for a full week. Yet he remembers that hug, remembers holding his hand, and perhaps it’s infatuation, yes, but he has never been so happy.

“Makkachin!” Victor greets when Yakov brings the dog home from his apartment, where he’d been taking care of him. Makkachin leaps on top of him, knocking him to the ground and licking his face relentlessly. Victor had missed him, tangles his fingers in his fur and drowns him in adoration, hugs and kisses and treats that he’s certain Yakov hadn’t spoiled him with. Yakov, on the other hand, just leans against the wall, the door to Victor’s apartment still cracked open.

“How was Detroit?”

“I met someone,” he says, because he figures neither Mila nor Yurio told Yakov about Yuuri Katsuki.

Yakov, though, doesn’t look surprised. Exasperated, maybe, but not surprised. “Again?”

“What do you mean again?”

“Remember that guy in Albuquerque? And how about the one in Hong Kong?”

“No, no,” Victor protests. “This is different.” He reclines on his couch and Makkachin lays down on top of his chest. Yakov shuts the apartment door and sits in a chair by the television. “He works at Celestino’s publishing office, actually.”

Yakov’s eyebrows shoot up. “He does?”

“So does his friend,” he adds, thinking of Phichit.

(KY, he reminds himself. Not Phichit, but KY.)

“I want to visit Detroit again,” Victor muses. “For my next book. Another book signing.”

Yakov agrees, albeit reluctantly, since they could probably maximize profits elsewhere.

 

~

 

Victor continues writing.

He writes and writes and writes, and it feels more natural than it had been before he’d gone to Detroit. If he were less modest, he’d call it a stroke of genius. The words fall like snowflakes, collecting themselves into a perfect sheet where they are simply a part of a greater whole, a comprehensive story that he thinks can beat KY’s.

It feels wrong, though, knowing that KY is Phichit.

Perhaps, he thinks to himself, he’d just been expecting someone different. As nice as Phichit had seemed, Victor had always had a blurred image in his head of who KY would be. His fantasy man was someone who would have a certain something that could make Victor's heart race, just like he was able to do with his writing.

A week passes.

His phone buzzes.

He sprints to it.

wyd?

From Yuuri. It’s from Yuuri. He smiles at it for a full thirty seconds before answering. Writing, how about you?

An ellipsis indicating that he’s typing, and then it’s gone. And then it’s back. just hanging out w/ phichit.

Tell him hi from me.

Yuuri says that he will. Victor wants to keep the conversation going, though, so he starts asking questions, about Yuuri’s day and his week and his life. They end up back on the topic of books, as per usual. It’s lovely and perfect and he feeds Makkachin while staring at his phone, the dog not caring so long as he gets his usual portion.

When Yuuri finally says he has to go, there’s a returning emptiness to Victor’s chest. He sits down to write, but the words don’t come to him tonight, so he ends up going to sleep early, Makkachin curled against his side. He thinks of Yuuri’s eyes, for some reason. Thinks of them religiously, the way they’d sparkled and crinkled around the edges when he’d laughed.

 

~

 

“You’re still stuck on this guy?” Yurio asks him days later.

He has one photo of Yuuri on his phone. He’d taken a selfie with him at the restaurant they’d gone to on his last day in Detroit. They’re both smiling in it, expressions bright. Yurio glares at the photo like it has offended him. Victor touches the blond’s shoulder. “You’ll understand, one day.”

“I don’t think it’s normal to fall in love with a guy you knew for, like, three days. Four days. Whatever. So, yeah, I really don’t think I’ll ‘understand one day.’

Victor sighs dreamily, locks his phone and rests his chin on his hand. “Your loss.”

That has the response that he desires—Yurio growls and leaves the room.

Mila, at least, indulges him. Lets Victor talk about Yuuri, the little things that he’d admired, how he wants to see him again, how they still text from time to time and the conversation never seems to halt, never seems to get awkward. As time passes, Victor thinks more and more about the time that Yuuri had told him he’d felt like he had already known Victor through his writing.

Victor feels the same way, still, which doesn’t make any sense.

Occasionally, he thinks about KY, but the excitement that should be there still feels oddly dull. He doesn’t tell anyone about that, not even in vague details, because he’s still uncertain and because he doesn’t want to accidentally reveal KY’s identity to the public. More so, he wants to broach the topic with Yuuri first, wants to know the details of the truth.

 

~

 

It’s a Tuesday morning, the sun shining in through the cracks in Victor’s blinds, when the author is still laying in bed. It’s already late morning, and he’s trying to convince himself to wake up and properly begin his day when his phone rings.

He jumps.

Accidentally hits Makkachin, who yelps and gets off of the bed. He apologizes, and his poodle seems to forgive him. Then, he reaches for his phone, not checking who the caller is before hitting the green accept button. “Hello?” he asks, voice groggy.

“Hi, Victor.”

That’s… It’s…

“Yuuri,” he breathes, grinning. His forehead is sweaty—he must’ve kept the apartment too hot last night, and staying in bed all morning certainly hadn’t helped either—so he brushes his hair back out of his eyes. “Yuuri, you’re… Hi.”

Yuuri laughs a little. “Um, it’s a FaceTime call.”

He yanks the phone away from his ear, examines the screen. Sure enough, Yuuri is there, offering a wave. And just the sight of him has Victor short-circuiting, his brain fried, his body frozen, his current self revolved completely around the image of Yuuri Katsuki. He swallows, still smiling. “How are you?”

“I’m good. What time is it there?”

“Noon,” he admits, and realizes that he’s shirtless, and that the rumpled bedsheets are visible. This isn’t the impression he’d like to give off. The shirtless part is okay, of course, but the fact that he’s still in bed at noon? He switches the topic. “Oh, you need to meet Makkachin. Makka, come here.”

Makkachin jumps back up on the bed and Victor points the camera towards him. Yuuri coos and says hello—Makkachin doesn’t understand what’s going on but pants happily anyway. They continue talking for a few hours, and Victor keeps one hand on Makkachin and the other gripping his phone. It makes him giddy, the fact that Yuuri had called him.

 

~

 

A month passes.

Victor’s word count grows.

There are more FaceTime calls, each one better than the last.

They’re both busy people, though, and with the timezone difference the calls are hard to schedule. So Victor treasures them, looks forward to them, tells Mila and Yurio and anyone who will listen about them.

One day, he opens his fan blog and sees a post he has been mentioned in.

The title: Who is KY?

It’s divided into subsections—ethnicity, gender, age, all the way down to income status.

It’s horribly creepy, in Victor’s opinion. They’d delved into every possible clue. Somehow, they’d determined that he’s male and that he’s not from America. Victor doesn’t reblog it, just leaves the original poster an angrily-worded message and lays in bed, thinking about that. Thinking about how Phichit has thousands of people trying to figure out who he is every single day.

And then another month passes.

And another, and another, and the days blur together as he prepares his book for release. March is approaching ever-so-quickly. Yakov is stressing about the deadline, and so is everyone else at the company. Except for Victor. He’s calm, knows that he’ll figure it out, as he always does.

He’s sitting with Mila one day, looking over her notes on one of his chapters, when he catches sight of her laptop screen. “Is that Celestino’s Facebook page?”

She doesn’t pay attention, just focuses on her scribbles and starts writing something anew with her red pen. Victor leans closer to the computer, trying to get a better look at what the post says. A party. A book release party. In Detroit.

A book release party in Detroit. For KY’s newest novel.

“Victor, what are you—oh,” she realizes. “A book release party? So what?”

“In Detroit,” he explains, grinning already. “In Detroit, Mila. At their publishing building.”

“Yuuri will be there,” Mila says slowly, understanding.

He’ll surprise him. It’s a great idea. He’ll surprise Yuuri, and it’ll be perfect. He’s out of his chair in an instant, knocking on Yakov’s door and already trying the golden doorknob. It’s locked, as per usual. He hears a click and then swings it open. He sits down in front of Yakov’s desk while Yakov himself makes his way back to his large office chair.

“What?” he says. “I was in a call.”

“Look at Celestino’s Facebook page,” Victor urges.

Yakov does. He raises an eyebrow, but other than that, has no obvious reaction. “A book release party. How shocking.” The sarcasm is obvious—Victor chooses to ignore it.

“I’m going to go,” he announces. He doesn’t make it a question, because if it were a question, Yakov would say no, and Victor doesn’t want that.

A sign. “Victor, take another look at the date.”

He does. March 19th. He sees no particular significance in March 19th.

“It’s the date of your book release party.”

“We move it,” he suggests simply, waving his hand.

“We’re not moving the party so that you can go to somebody else’s party instead. Besides, Vitya, you weren’t even invited to KY’s book release party. It’s an exclusive event. They won’t let you in.”

Victor sinks.

Yakov appears to feel bad. Perhaps it’s only a slight guilt, but it’s a guilt all the same. “Okay, okay. Why don’t you just invite Yuuri to come to your party?”

For a second, he contemplates the idea. Except Phichit is Yuuri’s best friend. He wouldn’t miss his best friend’s party, probably. Victor decides to do what he does best: compromise. “We’ll move the date of our party,” he says. “Just a few days before the book releases. That way Yuuri can go to both.”

Yakov agrees, and they shake on it.

They’ll have their parties, the books will release, and then KY will have his party.

 

~

 

He’s nervous to ask Yuuri to fly to Saint Petersburg.

Victor is planning on offering to pay for the plane ticket, since Yuuri will have to pack up his things and find time in his schedule to come. It’s a spontaneous and risky move—he knows that because Mila and Yurio had stared blankly at him when he’d initially suggested the idea. But Victor had spun it to them as more of a friendly gesture and less of a romantic one.

(In his mind, though, it’s a romantic one.)

“Hello,” he greets when his phone rings during dinner one night. There’s takeout food in front of him and a Russian soap opera blaring on the television. Victor likes to watch them because it’s a release from formal, more articulate storytelling. Sometimes it’s nice to watch something just to watch something, not to devour every line, every intimate detail of the plot. The man on the television currently has two long lost twins he hadn’t known about and a husband who he’d thought was dead. It’s ridiculous, but refreshing.

“Hi,” Yuuri answers, and Victor can hear the smile in his voice, and it’s killing him, tearing him to shreds. He almost suggests a FaceTime call, but no, he needs to get these words out first. Can’t get sidetracked.

Victor turns off the television, pushes his food away from him. Shuts his eyes. Takes in a breath. Nervousness is a foreign concept for him, but he figures this must be what it feels like. He’s neither nervous nor embarrassed to ask, he’s simply anxious about what Yuuri’s answer will be. A resounding ‘no’ would not be surprising, but Victor has hope nevertheless.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Oh, sure,” Yuuri says, and Victor wonders what he’s wearing—a scarf, a jacket, maybe jeans? Is he alone, or is Phichit nearby? What time is it there?

He remembers another one of Yurio’s favorite words: Smitten. Like the cheesy characters in your novels, he’d said.

“My book release party. Would you… Would you come?”

There’s a pause.

“Yuuri?” he asks.

“I’m still here,” Yuuri promises, the words hurried. “I… I just… Your book releases are the same week. You and, er, KY, I mean. So are the parties…?”

Victor doesn’t tell Yuuri that he’d had the date for his party moved in hopes that a man he’d known for all of four days in Detroit, Michigan might be able to fly across the world to come and smile at him. Instead, he informs him that the parties are different days, and then waits.

“I’ll pay for the plane tickets,” Victor adds.

It makes him sound desperate.

(He is desperate.)

(But he doesn’t want to sound it.)

(The desperation stems from the way that Yuuri had made Victor feel. He hadn’t felt like that in so long, hadn’t had electricity pulsing through his fingertips and excitement coursing through his veins. Yuuri and that coffee shop had done wonders for his inspiration that no amount of Van Gogh or Mozart ever could.)

“I’ll go, but you don’t have to pay for the plane tickets.”

Victor’s mind does a flip—a double, triple, quadruple flip. He feels his heart racing quicker than it had been before, feels his posture loosen. There’s a lazy smile on his lips, an undeniable one, one that he has only recently become so familiar with. “You will? You’ll go?”

“Sure,” Yuuri says. “I’d…” He laughs nervously. “I’m really honored that you invited me.”

“I’ll pay for the tickets,” Victor repeats, because it’d be ridiculous for him not to, because Yuuri doesn’t even understand what type of favor he’s doing for him right now, because he can’t possibly begin to comprehend…

“No, no,” he promises. “You don’t need to do that. I can pay.”

Victor exhales, ready to protest.

Somebody calls Yuuri’s name on the other end of the line. Phichit, Victor recognizes. “I should go see what he wants,” Yuuri says regretfully.

“Right. Tell him hello from me.”

“I will.” There’s a pause, and Yuuri still hasn’t hung up. Victor certainly won’t be the first to end the conversation, so he waits, sitting on the edge of the couch cushion with anticipation thick in the air of his living room. “Victor?”

“Yes?”

“I’m, um… Never mind.”

“That’s not fair,” Victor accuses, grinning and letting it show in his tone. “You can’t start something and then leave me wondering.”

“Fine,” he sighs. “I was just going to say that I’m looking forward to seeing you again. I, um… If I’m being totally honest… I sort of have been, for a while.”

“I feel the same way,” he admits with ease. “See you soon.”

“See you.”

 

~

 

March is slow to arrive.

It’s like seeing a timer about to go off across a room and running towards it, time becoming sludge, difficult to wade through. He writes and writes but mostly he thinks, thinks about his novel and KY being Phichit and Yuuri and Makkachin and everything in between. Stammi Vicino is completed, and he thinks it’s rather good, but not good enough to beat Phichit.

One night, he picks up one of KY’s older novels: Dime a Dozen.

It feels disconnected, somehow, now that he knows Phichit is KY. It doesn’t feel right. He’d expected a merging of personalities, to recognize KY’s writing in his limited knowledge of the Thai man, to make connections. Yet he doesn’t. Instead, they’re separate. It’s interesting, he thinks, how he seems to forget KY’s identity when he’s engrossed in one of his novels. Phichit’s name never so much as enters his mind.

“I’m looking forward to meeting the man who took your heart with such ease,” Christophe tells him when the party is a week away, licking his lips. “Your muse sounds fascinating.”

He’d never thought of Yuuri as his muse before, but it’d be a lie to say that the term doesn’t fit. “I’ll take him to dinner his first night here,” he thinks out loud. “He’ll land around lunchtime so that should give him time to rest up first. Then, the party. Then I’ll show him around the city, we’ll get to know each other more…”

“Romantic,” Christophe compliments. “You’re trying to woo him?”

“No, just impress him. I want to make the time that we have together last.”

“Ah.” There’s a look on Christophe’s face that Victor doesn’t like. A sly knowledge as he claps Victor on the back, something playing on his lips and in his eyes.

Victor returns to planning the party, which Sara and Mila are in charge of. He goes to the mall with Christophe to buy a new suit, though he finds himself more focused on looking good for Yuuri than for the party itself. After all, he has had plenty of book release parties in the past, but there is only one Yuuri Katsuki.

 

~

 

“You’re going to tell him?” Phichit asks, surprised.

“Yes,” Yuuri confirms, dusting off his jeans and standing up. His suitcase is to his left, his passport to his right. He picks it up, acting more confident than he feels. “I’ll tell him.”

His friend smiles at him, proud. “Good. He’ll understand, Yuuri. You’ve got nothing to worry about. Besides, it’ll make for a good book, won’t it?”

He laughs. “Good point. Victor and I can cowrite it.”

He’s kidding, but Phichit raises an eyebrow with intrigue, and Yuuri nudges his shoulder affectionately. His friend gives Yuuri a final hug before he exits their apartment to head towards the airport. He thinks about Victor during the whole journey, thinks about how surreal this is, thinks that maybe he’d been right—this would make a good book.

History Maker will have its book release party after he returns to Detroit. The entire company is excited for him, but they’re mostly excited to see who will top the pre-sale charts—Victor or KY. Yuuri has a feeling it will be Victor this year, but he’s more than okay with that, despite his competitive nature.

When he lands, he texts Victor, who replies with a string of excited emojis. Yuuri checks himself into his hotel room and sets his items down, opening the shades of his window and looking out on the magnificence that is Saint Petersburg. There’s canals that reflect the light of the grand buildings that stretch on as far as the eye can see, clouds that seem to look down upon the city with favor, a sun that gently illuminates the people milling underneath his window.

The city suits Victor, he thinks. Yuuri can see him walking the streets with Makkachin, can see him waving to a familiar face or writing down notes for his latest novel on a bench.

I’ll pick you up for dinner at six?

Yuuri stops, stares. He has no idea what Victor is talking about.

Another text from Victor follows seconds later. Oops, I forgot to ask. Dinner tonight? With me? I know the best places. x

He can’t help but laugh, his mind mixing incredulity with amusement. He types out a response. sounds like a plan

Sounds like a date.*

At that, Yuuri bites his lip to hold back his delight. a date? i think i’m too jet-lagged to dress up

Whatever you’re wearing is fine.

He glances down at his baggy sweatshirt. Victor probably wouldn’t have said that if he could see it. Yuuri decides to change anyway—a long-sleeved red sweater and the same jeans he’d been wearing before. Still casual, comfortable, but slightly more presentable. He stares at his reflection in the mirror, debating whether or not to push his hair back, and ultimately decides that it’s too much work—he’ll do it for the party tomorrow.

There’s a knock on the door.

Room service, he figures.

(Except it’s not.)

He’s off of his feet in an instant, being swung around in the air by tight arms. “Yuuri,” Victor breathes, and he smells nice, Yuuri realizes. He clings to Victor despite the peculiarity of the situation, can’t really help himself when the other man’s enthusiasm is as contagious as the common cold. “You came.”

“I told you I came,” Yuuri says.

“It didn’t feel real until now,” Victor responds, and those words make his heart feel heavier in his chest and his lungs feel lighter, as though he could survive by breathing his own adoration for the man in front of him, by breathing Victor’s excitement alone. There’s no doubt that he’s gorgeous, and Yuuri has enjoyed their talks over the last few months, but Victor is right—it hadn’t felt real until now.

“Our first proper date,” Victor flirts shamelessly. With most people, Yuuri thinks, it would be awkward, putting that suggestion out in the open, but Victor has an air of confidence that makes it seem normal, almost natural.

Yuuri bumps his shoulder as they walk down the street. “Are you saying those times at the coffee shop weren’t proper dates?”

“They were, but this is my home turf,” Victor teases, fingers brushing across Yuuri’s hand. “Also, I think I should warn you now. I’m going to win your heart properly, Yuuri Katsuki. I’m going to pull out all the stops.”

“Really?”

Victor hums, then points. “We’re going there.”

It’s a semiformal restaurant, candlelit with uselessly dim fluorescent lights. There are flowers in the middle of the table, but Victor pushes the vase to the side so that he can see Yuuri properly, and Yuuri smiles at him from behind his menu. Victor orders for him in Russian, and then they’re catching up, talking about this story and that.

Throughout their phone sessions, Yuuri had gotten to know the people in Victor’s life: Mila, Yurio, Yakov, Sara, Christophe, Georgi. He’s both nervous and excited to meet them all in person. Victor, on the other hand, had heard funny stories about Phichit, Minako, Yuuko, Celestino, Guang Hong, Leo, Seung-gil.

“I pre-bought History Maker,” Victor says, taking an ice cube from his cup and popping it into his mouth. Just a minute ago, Yuuri had called him out on that habit, and now Victor does it just to get his attention, notices the way that Yuuri’s eyes are drawn to his lips.

“I pre-bought Stammi Vicino.

Victor raises an eyebrow. “You didn’t pre-buy History Maker, too?”

“Oh, that too,” Yuuri adds, and he hates this, the lying. He’ll tell him after the party, he promises himself. Tonight… He wants to have tonight. Wants to have the party. And then he’ll tell him. Yes, he’ll tell him. Just not yet.

(Because what if Victor doesn’t forgive him? Or what if Victor thinks he’d tricked him? Or what if—and this is the one that haunts Yuuri the most—Victor thinks of him differently, no longer likes him for who he is?)

“We can talk about it together,” Victor suggests nonchalantly, but Yuuri has a feeling that there’s a deeper desire behind the words. “The book, I mean.”

“Sounds like a date.”

For a second, Victor’s eyes widen, and then he realizes that Yuuri’s words had been purposeful, and they’re both laughing. Victor rests his elbow on the table and his chin on his palm, the food in front of him temporarily forgotten. “What do you think of Saint Petersburg?”

“I think that it explains why your writing is so detailed,” Yuuri mumbles, glancing around the restaurant. “Everything is beautiful.”

“Mmm,” Victor agrees, but he hasn’t taken his eyes off of Yuuri. “Beautiful indeed.”

He feels himself blushing, and he knows, by now, that Victor is doing this on purpose, so he shoots him a look, heart galloping in his chest. “Thank you again, by the way. For the invitation. It’s really kind of you.”

“The parties are filled with too many people I don’t know—nameless sponsors, business friends of Yakov. It’ll be much more entertaining with you there, so really, I should be thanking you a thousand times over.”

“So basically you tricked me?”

Victor’s face pales.

Guilt flashes in Yuuri’s mind—he’d been joking, but Victor hadn’t realized. Instinctively, he leans forward and laces his fingers with Victor’s, squeezing his hand reassuringly. “I was kidding,” he promises. “It won’t be boring. Not with you. I’m looking forward to it.”

“It won’t be,” Victor agrees, relieved. “Drinking, dancing, and I know how much you love debating books. Wait until you meet Mila. She can go for hours.

“Do I get to meet Makkachin?”

He grins. “You could come over tonight. After this. I don’t live far from here.”

He’s shocked at the ease with which Victor offers this, but he’s definitely not going to say no to spending more time with him. “Sure.”

 

~

 

Saint Petersburg is cold, and Victor holds the door open for him when they reach his apartment building. This date is going well, he thinks, judging by the way that Yuuri keep smiling at him. It has him ecstatic, riding out the high of the night, and he ushers Yuuri into the elevator then presses a button.

When they arrive at his home, Yuuri blinks at the foyer he’s presented with. “Do you… Hang on, is this a penthouse?

“You like it?” he asks, taking the arms of Yuuri’s coat and helping him out of it before hanging it up on a nearby hook.

Makkachin comes leaping out of nowhere, pushing his front two paws onto Yuuri’s chest and almost, almost knocking him down. He staggers backwards and Victor cringes, but Yuuri just laughs, scratching his head. “Hello, Makkachin. We met over FaceTime. Do you remember?”

His penthouse is nice. Despite his humility—which Yurio would deny the existence of in the first place—he has to admit that it’s nice. The floors are a rich, light wood, the walls painted white. There’s art hanging from the walls, painted by various artists whose names he can’t remember, a tiled kitchen with marble countertops, a television screen in the living room.

Yuuri crosses the foyer and living room, heading over to a wall of full-length glass windows that look out over the city. It’s beautiful at this time of night, all bright lights and traffic sounds. He supposes it could be annoying to one adjusted to a suburban or rural lifestyle, but he and Yuuri are both city-dwellers. He figures that he must also understand the odd comfort of the omnipresent roar.

One of the windows doubles as a sliding door. He presses his hand on it. “May I?” he asks Victor.

Victor steps up beside him, nods.

He pushes it open and the noise comes to vivid life, people and cars and everything imaginable. It’s a microcosm of the world, Victor thinks, looking around. People of all types, of all backgrounds. Yuuri approaches the edge of the balcony and rests both hands on the railing, wind whistling through his black hair and pushing it out of his eyes. The moonlight makes his skin look shimmery and pale, makes his irises sparkle more than usual.

(Sonnets, Victor thinks.)

(He deserves sonnets. Sonnets and ballads and every form of prose imaginable. It’s like trying to bottle starlight, it’s like trying to comprehend the immensity of the ocean—impossible, yet somehow worth the endless effort. He wants to try to write him, wants to try to capture him.)

“Sometimes I write out here,” he says. “The noise helps.”

“I can imagine,” Yuuri replies.

Victor stands beside him, covers Yuuri’s hand on the railing with his own. “Is KY jealous that you’re coming to my party as well as his?”

To his surprise, Yuuri doesn’t deny the fact that he knows KY. “They don’t mind.”

“No jealousy?” he teases, though he knows Phichit wouldn’t be jealous.

Then Victor remembers something. Yuuri’s words.

I like your stuff better. Your plots are more creative.

Now that Victor knows he’d been talking about Phichit, those words feel… Off, somehow. He can’t imagine Yuuri ever saying that to Phichit’s face, or saying those same words with Phichit’s name in lieu of his pseudonym. Yuuri isn’t the type to insult others like that. Something about the whole situation feels off.

Except, what doesn’t feel off is Yuuri’s hand, still underneath his own. It’s warm despite the weather, and his skin is soft, the sensation mesmerizing. It’s as though that point of contact is grounding Victor’s entire body. “No jealousy,” Yuuri says, laughing, and Victor has to think hard to remember what they’d been talking about.

“That’s good. I’m glad to hear that my competitor is friendly.”

Yuuri changes the topic of conversation quickly. “Can I see your books?”

Victor leads him to his study and swings the door open, gesturing for Yuuri to enter. There’s a bookshelf on either side of the room, both filled to the brim with novels of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Yuuri walks over to the one on the left and his fingers glaze over Fragile As Glass, a worn copy. Then, more of KY’s novels, all lined up in a neat row. After examining those, he turns to the other novels, written by a variety of authors, some famous, some less so.

“Do you have a favorite book?” Yuuri asks him.

“Gatsby,” he answers. “Here, look.” He grabs his copy of The Great Gatsby, flips it open to the first page, and presents it to Yuuri.

Yuuri blinks, then squints, bringing the page closer to his face. “It’s… Signed?”

“It was a gift. It’s a first edition copy,” he explains.

“Wow, that’s…” Yuuri’s voice trails off, and then his eyes meet Victor’s own. Victor smiles, perhaps prouder than he should be at the fact that he’d managed to impress Yuuri Katsuki. “This is your favorite book?” he adds, not offensive but curious, flipping through the pages like they’ll turn to dust if he’s not gentle.

“What’s not to like? Symbolism, a romance, plot twists… Fitzgerald was very talented.”

Yuuri nods slowly, as though letting that information sink in.

“And your favorite book?”

He thinks for a second. “Brave New World. Aldous Huxley.”

Victor whistles. “Didn’t see that coming.”

Blushing, Yuuri sets the book down on the shelf and continues to look through the other contents. “What do you mean?”

“Just… That’s, er, intense.”

Yuuri turns to him, chin tilted upwards so that his caramel eyes can meet Victor’s blue ones, gaze steady and strong, like an anchor tying Victor to the shore, keeping him still. “Are you saying you don’t think I can handle intensity?”

“No, no, just, given that you read my novels and KY’s, I wouldn’t have guessed your favorite novel would be Brave New World.” It’s a spontaneous decision, but he cups Yuuri’s cheek, lets his thumb run across his jawbone. Other than a barely noticeable shiver, Yuuri doesn’t move. “It’s a good one, though. I’ve read it a few times myself.”

The man in front of him exhales, a shaky breath. “You have?”

But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.” He quotes the words with ease.

There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired,” Yuuri responds, and it takes Victor a moment to realize that it’s from F. Scott Fitzgerald.

He smiles softly, realizing how close they are, realizing that Yuuri’s cheek is still underneath his hand and that the other man is making no move to stop that. Victor’s other hand is still on the bookshelf and he moves it, brushing his fingers across Yuuri’s wrist instead. He finds his palm, drifts his thumb across it, notices with delight that the action has its desired effect, Yuuri shivering again, more noticeably this time.

“You’re well-read,” Victor tells him.

Yuuri licks his lips, and Victor wonders if the move is deliberate. It’s alluring, certainly—draws Victor’s eyes in the way that no mystical words can, in the way that nobody else ever has. “So are you.”

Victor moves his hand from Yuuri’s cheek to his hair, as he has dreamed of doing over the past several months, and brushes a stray lock out of his eyes. It’s softer than he could have imagined, the strands thin, and he wonders if he’ll ever be able to fully experience it, run all of his fingers through it in the way that he so desperately wants to. Now that he’s had a fleeting touch, he’s not sure he’ll ever be satisfied without more.

“Are you surprised? That I’m well-read? I am an author, after all,” Victor says.

He doesn’t answer, doesn’t need to—just smiles again, and it fills the room. Victor’s large penthouse normally feels small, lonely, but Yuuri expands it, pushes the walls back and brightens the lights above them.

“Do you remember,” Victor starts, “when you said you felt like you already knew me?”

A nod.

“I don’t, I can’t… It feels the same way. For me. There’s something about this, Yuuri, something that I’m not… Something familiar. About you.”

Yuuri swallows, then brings his hand to Victor’s wrist near his cheek and pulls it down, keeping their fingers laced. “Do you want to do something?”

The sting of rejection lasts only a second, because he realizes it hadn’t been a purposeful rejection so much as a change of topic. He nods, and they end up watching a movie on Victor’s couch, a few inches of space between them. Slowly, though, they move closer together, and eventually Yuuri’s shoulder is pressed against his.

It’s perfect, intimate but not too intimate. And then Victor catches sight of Yuuri’s hand. It’s on his legs. Victor is certain that his next move is deliberate. Slowly, surely, Yuuri turns it so that his palm is facing upwards, fingers only a few inches away from Victor’s own body.

(Now, Victor would like to think of himself as a certified romantic, given the novels that he has written.)

(So he knows what Yuuri is doing. Or, at least, he knows what he hopes that Yuuri is doing.)

Victor takes his hand.

In his peripheral vision, he sees Yuuri smile.

He’s smiling, too, except he’s not as good at hiding it, shifting backwards into the couch cushions and shifting closer to him, still watching the television screen. His hand is warm, fits perfectly in his own. Victor squeezes it, and in response Yuuri squeezes his back. He finds himself thinking of metaphors once again, wondering how he’d describe this feeling if he were trying to write it in a novel. He finds that he can’t. That seems to happen a lot, with Yuuri.

(The indescribable.)

(Which is unfamiliar, because as an author, Victor prides himself on description. Descriptions of people and places and things and actions, and yet Yuuri Katsuki manages to leave him speechless, wordless. If he were to write about him, he’d have an endless waterfall of letters and nothing at the same time.)

As the credits begin to roll, Yuuri yawns, mouth wide and eyes shutting, briefly, before opening again. He realizes that Victor is watching him and offers an apologetic smile. “Sorry, jet lag.”

“No, don’t apologize,” Victor assures him. “You should be getting back, I suppose.” He stretches out his arms. “Can I walk with you?”

“Sure.”

He holds Yuuri’s hand on the way back to his hotel.

 

~

 

Victor wears a floral tie for the party, the same one that he’d been wearing when he’d first met Yuuri. It’s one of his favorites. First, he’s planning on meeting Yuuri at the hotel, then they’ll take a taxi to the venue together.

“Is there a Mr. Yuuri Katsuki in here?” he asks, leaning on the wall beside Yuuri’s hotel room door, not bothering to knock.

The door swings open. “I don’t know. Who’s asking?”

He’s about to think of a witty comeback when he sees Yuuri in a suit. Yuuri Katsuki in a suit. Yuuri, wearing a suit. A suit being worn on Yuuri. No matter how he forms those words, no matter how many combinations he can fathom, they feel… They feel like… Something. They feel like something. And Victor feels like something. Because he’s wearing a suit, too, but he may as well not be, because Yuuri…

Because Yuuri…

He’s…

“Victor?” Yuuri asks, cautious. “Are you okay?”

(No. Definitely not.)

(In fact, he’s pretty sure Yuuri Katsuki just shrunk his expansive, scholarly vocabulary to the point where it only contains one guttural, primal syllable. Guh.)

But he doesn’t say guh. Because that would be unprofessional. He chooses not to say anything. Which may be worse, but at least it’s not embarrassing, per se. “Give me one second,” Yuuri is saying, and he’s darting back into his hotel room, and Victor is useless, isn’t he? Just a blob of limbs and a suit? He can’t move, can’t speak.

Then Yuuri puts on chapstick.

(As though things hadn’t been bad enough, Yuuri puts on chapstick.)

He doesn’t do it right in front of him, so Victor can’t accuse him of voluntary manslaughter, but it is in close approximation to him, so perhaps he could be arrested for the involuntary variety. It’s a brand that Victor hasn’t seen before, and he dabs it on one finger then places that finger on his lips, glancing at what little piece of the reflection in the bathroom mirror he can see.

That’s when Victor does say guh.

“What?” Yuuri asks, head swiveling around. His eyebrows narrow with confusion. “Victor, are you…”

“Fine, are you fine, the answer is yes,” Victor says. The words don’t make sense, but he doesn’t give Yuuri a chance to respond, because the second the other man is outside of the door he’s guiding them both towards the elevator.

 

~

 

He shows Yuuri off.

(Just a little.)

Mila beams at him and introduces herself, Yurio doesn’t growl, which is impressive, and Yakov looks him up and down with analytical eyes. Eventually, though, he shakes Yuuri’s hand, even smiles at him, maybe. Yakov mentions that he has seen Yuuri before, several times. Yuuri tells him that he works closely with Celestino.

“That’s it,” Yakov says, but there’s something to his voice that Victor catches, since he knows him well. A subtle doubt.

Most of the talk, of course, surrounds Victor’s upcoming novel. Occasionally, it will stray to KY’s, but that’s mostly because everyone is curious to hear what the man who works at Celestino’s publishing company has to say. Victor doesn’t mind—the attention is on him often enough, after all—but he also knows that Yuuri doesn’t like to talk about KY, so he does the best he can to fend off curious ears and mouths.

“Dance with me?” he asks eventually, and Yuuri agrees, smiling brightly.

They’re both tipsy, but not ridiculously so. Logic coincides with ecstasy in their minds as Victor bends him down and Yuuri clings to him, surprised by the complex dance move. Then, though, Yuuri twirls around him, taking the lead, and Victor is content to follow, equally as impressed. “You dance?” Victor wonders out loud. Then, he scoffs. “Of course you dance.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Yuuri teases back, and they slow down, now, keeping it to simple, swaying movements.

“You have good taste in books, music, authors,” at that, he winks, “and you’re very talented. It makes sense that you can dance, too.”

“You dance,” he points out. “What sort of author dances on the side?”

Victor, suddenly, dips him again, and it’s more elegant this time, the kind of dip that has other people on the dance floor turning to watch them. “The kind who wants to write very realistic tango scenes.”

“I see.”

Victor tightens his hand on Yuuri’s waist, lowers his voice. “I remember a very realistic dancing scene in one of KY’s novels. A waltz between two lovers. Did he have anyone help him research that?”

Yuuri blushes, glances around the room self-consciously. “You seem to be very interested in my relationship with KY.”

“I just want to make sure he’s not my rival in more ways than one.”

There’s a laugh, but it feels like he’s laughing at something else, almost. A nervous chuckle. “Trust me… That’s… That’s definitely not a problem.”

 

~

 

At the end of the night, they’ve had a few more drinks, and they stumble back to Yuuri’s hotel. Outside of the main entrance, Victor holds both of his hands, adoration and alcohol permeating his mind. Yuuri reaches up on his tiptoes and kisses him on the lips. A brief, chaste, innocent thing, but it has Victor’s heart threatening to burst anyway. “Tonight was fun,” Yuuri says.

“Breakfast? Tomorrow?” Victor asks, because he’s just barely sober enough to think this through. “Coffee, I mean.”

“Coffee,” Yuuri agrees, squeezing his hand. “I’ll wait with you until you get a taxi. Wouldn’t want famed writer Victor Nikiforov ending up passed out on a street corner.”

He laughs at that, brushing his fingers through Yuuri’s hair for the second time in his life. It feels even more magical than the first time. He hopes it becomes a regular occurrence. “Has anybody ever told you that you’re lovely?”

Yuuri rolls his eyes, cheeks tinted and a shy smile playing on his lips. A defense mechanism, Victor thinks briefly. “Not really.”

“You are,” Victor mumbles, kissing his head. “So lovely.”

“And you’re wonderful, but I’m sure you get that all the time,” Yuuri comments, and Victor figures it must be the alcohol loosening his tongue, but he’s elated all the same.

“Ah, but I’ve never gotten a comment from somebody like yourself.”

A taxi pulls up.

“Ten?” Yuuri suggests. “For coffee tomorrow?”

“Ten,” Victor agrees. “I’ll text you the address and meet you there, if that works. And I’m paying this time. You need to let me pay for something since you came all the way out here.”

“You don’t have to—”

Victor is already getting into the taxi. “I’m paying! Caramel frap. I know your order by now.” With a wink, he shuts the door, leaving Yuuri standing outside of his hotel, flustered and perfect and beautiful and here, with Victor, in Russia.

 

~

 

They have coffee that morning. Lunch that afternoon. Dinner that evening. It’s a bit much, maybe, but Yuuri has to go back to Detroit soon, and Victor isn’t receiving any negative signs, so surely it’s okay? Surely it’s okay to want to spend more time with him, to want to get to know him as much as possible in the time that he has?

Coffee again the next morning. This time, Yuuri comes back to his apartment and they spend the day there. They sit beside each other on his bed, Victor finding his least favorite lines from his novels and reading them aloud to Yuuri. Yuuri laughs but insists that they aren’t bad. They start reading them in the most ridiculous voices possible and it makes the dialogue sound far cheesier than it is. But when they get to a kissing scene, Victor leans closer and kisses him on the cheek and Yuuri stares at him in shock before they’re both laughing again, unable to stop due to the brilliance of it all. 

Then, they explore Saint Petersburg, and Victor points out random sights and Yuuri seems to soak them all in, paying close attention to details. He’ll explain where he writes, and Yuuri will shut his eyes for a second, as though imagining it, and every time he does that Victor holds his hand because he has to, because he’s not sure he’d be able to forgive himself if he didn’t.

Often, he sees a look on Yuuri’s face, like he’s about to tell him something. He gets the same look when he glances down at his phone sometimes. Victor figures it’s about KY. He doesn’t mind, though, the fact that Yuuri hasn’t told him. After all, it doesn’t seem like it’s his secret to share.

Yuuri has to leave the following afternoon.

They spend the morning together, not drinking coffee but reclining on Victor’s couch instead. Victor finds out that Yuuri hasn’t read The Song of Achilles so he starts reading to him, despite the inevitable fact that they won’t be able to finish it. It’s intimate, Victor resting his head on Yuuri’s shoulder and spinning the words in the air, their bodies close together.

When he has to go back to the hotel room to finally pack his things, Victor is regretful, shutting the book. “I’ll finish it,” Yuuri promises. “I’ll buy a copy and finish it.”

They take a taxi to the hotel. Yuuri gets his things, and then they’re at the airport, blocking the middle of the path, strangers weaving around them and Yuuri’s hands held loosely in Victor’s own, his eyes sad, holding a thousand emotions unsung.

“You could stay,” Victor suggests, and it’s futile, he knows, it’s a joke, he knows, it’s ridiculous, he knows, but he says it anyway, out of some desperate hope.

Yuuri cups the back of his neck, and Victor shuts his eyes in response to the touch. “Next time you’ll visit Detroit?” he asks, quiet.

He nods, not even thinking about it. “I will.”

“Then I’ll see you again,” Yuuri says, and it’s a question as much as it is a statement.

“You can’t get rid of me that easily, YK.”

Yuuri laughs, but it quickly dissolves, and then their eyes meet. It’s Victor who moves first, shifting closer to him, and it’s Yuuri who meets him halfway, one hand still on his shoulder and the other still tangled with Victor’s fingers. It’s an explosion, Victor thinks, the mushroom-cloud kind, the kind that ruins everything in its wake because he’s weak now, weak for Yuuri Katsuki, weak for what he does to him, weak for the feeling of tipsiness and love that he’d felt at the party, weak for this current feeling of lips on top of his.

It’s new, it’s surprising, dangerous, even, but he wants more—so much more.

They’re soft. Softer than his hair and softer than his skin. Victor leans closer out of instinct and Yuuri’s glasses bump into his face, but he doesn’t mind, doesn’t notice. He’s acutely aware of their three points of contact. Shakespeare, Hemingway, Austen, Homer, what would any of them say of this? What could they say of this? Where do chemicals in the brain and words compete, oxytocin and litotes, dopamine and metaphors?

When he pulls away, he’s buzzing, he wonders if his skin is glowing, wonders if strangers on the street will look at him and be able to tell. Probably, he thinks, watching Yuuri fidget with his glasses, eyes still caught on Victor’s lips.

“I’ll be in Detroit tomorrow,” he jokes.

“I wouldn’t complain,” Yuuri teases right back, poking him in the chest.

“Tonight. I’ll sneak on your plane with you.”

“Maybe you can fit in my suitcase.”

“I’m willing to try.”

“Victor, I…” His voice cracks. “I need to tell you something.”

His sudden solemness throws Victor off balance, but he’s all ears. “Yes?”

Yuuri is about to speak again, and Victor takes the opportunity to touch his hair, carding his fingers through the top. “I… I just… It’s…”

(Later, Victor will think back on this moment.)

But at the time, he just hugs him, and Yuuri seems grateful, squeezing him tight. “Sorry, it’s nothing. I’ll see you?”

“See you,” Victor answers, shutting his eyes and trying to relish in the way that his hands feel, in the way that his voice sounds, since it’s not the same over a phone, since he doesn’t know how long he’ll have to content himself with clinging to the memories instead of having the real thing.

 

~

 

And then he’s gone.

It’s like his apartment changes. Less laughter, more dark corners. Makkachin is there, and Victor is still giddy with excitement, but the change is there nevertheless. He pets Makkachin and falls asleep dreaming of the taste of his lips, considers asking Yuuri what brand of chapstick he uses out of an irrational curiosity.

Victor’s book releases a day later. KY’s book releases on the day of his party—a Saturday. He wonders if Yuuri dances while he’s there, and that thought makes his stomach turn, so he decides to cast it off like a fishing bob into the ocean. Instead, he focuses on the fact that KY’s latest novel has just arrived at his doorstep.

While Yuuri may or may not be dancing, Victor devours it.

Page by page, word by word.

The author dissociates completely from Phichit, in Victor’s mind. Instead of seeing Yuuri’s best friend writing the words, he still pictures a shadowy figure, the one with the smile that he’d used to dream of.

The story itself is magical, captivating in every way that a story should be. He loses himself in it, stays up throughout the night, crying at four separate chapters, pausing in the story and ranting to Makkachin about nine of them. The words that he crafts, the descriptions that he provides, overwhelming, beautiful, unlike nothing Victor has ever read before.

The love is real. Feels more real than it has in any of KY’s previous novels, Victor notes.

When it ends, it doesn’t feel like it has truly ended. It leaves his head reeling, though whether it’s from the story or sitting in the same position for so many hours he’s not sure. Without thinking, he grabs his laptop and sets it in front of him, quickly opening the internet and going to a familiar website. He types.

History Maker - a comprehensive review by ky-fan1990

First, he lists out the characters, gives his detailed opinions about all of them. Not to mention the character development. Next, he goes into the plot, the intimacies of it, the symbolism he’d found, the beauty of it all. The detail that he must’ve put into researching figure skating. The careful attention paid to keeping the story in a constant flow, a constant net of attention, sucking the reader in and keeping them there successfully.

Then, he talks about the story in general. Rants. Raves. Paragraph after paragraph. Strings of emojis. Russian. French. English. Admits that he cried several times—lists what parts, specifically, he’d cried at. He reads his review aloud to Makkachin, editing it and making it perfect, despite the fact that it’s, at its core, a nonsensical mess.

At the end, he has a bit about KY himself—calling him the greatest author who has ever lived, saying that this novel will surely top the charts. He means every word of it. It’s not self-deprecation—no—it’s praise. He knows that his own novels are good, but never has he been so moved by blank ink on white pages.

He hits post.

Eats lunch, then goes to bed before he has even had dinner.

As tempting dreams take their hold on his mind, it occurs to him, briefly, that he hasn’t even checked the reviews on his own new novel yet.

Tomorrow, he thinks.

He’ll check tomorrow.

 

~

 

“Oh my god, you should strip,” Phichit suggests. “There’s a pole over there.”

Yuuri’s shirt is unbuttoned halfway, and so is Phichit’s. They’re messes, sitting in the corner of the bar and drowning each other in laughter, landing their heads on each other’s shoulders if someone so much as glances at them. They start a game—every time they hear the words History Maker, they take a shot.

“I’m not stripping,” Yuuri slurs, batting his friend’s shoulder with a palm. “You should strip.”

“No, no,” Phichit protests, and he breaks out into laughter again.

They giggle, taking a few more shots and telling stories, when the roar of the room starts to dim. People are checking phones, their faces turning serious, and eyes begin drifting over to Yuuri, who blissfully ignores them all, caught up instead in Phichit retelling the tale of how he’d gotten fired from his first job. Yuuri wishes Victor were here, but at the same time he’s glad he isn’t, because he still feels a sharp guilt for having never told him about his true identity.

“Yuuri,” Celestino says, approaching them.

All of the life in the party has died. People are staring at him. “Why isn’t anybody dancing?” he whispers to Phichit.

Phichit shrugs, standing up on wobbly legs. “We can dance, Yuuri.”

“We need to talk,” Celestino adds, far too sober for Yuuri’s liking.

“There’s two of you,” Yuuri tells him, because how is Celestino doing that? Duplicating himself?

The man shuts his eyes, focuses, then puts a hand on Yuuri’s back. “It’s about Victor.”

“Victor,” Yuuri mumbles, testing the name on his tongue. Victor, lovely Victor, Victor who he’d kissed just a few days ago and Victor who… Victor who doesn’t know who he is, because Yuuri had been too scared to tell him… The guilt still gnaws at his insides, tears him apart. He’d meant to tell him a thousand times, but every time, something had gone wrong or he’d chickened out. Especially at the airport.

“Look,” Celestino commands, holding out his phone.

Phichit rests his chin on Yuuri’s head, both of them looking at the screen.

 

Victor Nikiforov - writer, blogger, lover of poodles

 

March 18th, 2017

I’m proud to announce the release of my new novel, Stammi Vicino! You can read the summary here and purchase it here. It’s a tale of love and growth, and I am incredibly proud to share it with all of you.

 

March 19th, 2017

History Maker - a comprehensive review by ky-fan1990

!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s official: History Maker is now my favorite novel. There’s no doubt in my mind. I’m going to dissect it word for word, and you can read my tl;dr at the very end along with my thoughts on KY!! ( ^▽^)

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“That’s sweet,” Yuuri whispers, feeling tears welling in his eyes at the compliment.

Celestino pinches the bridge of his nose. “Keep reading.”

Yuuri keeps reading.

Oh.

Oh.

“Well that post certainly escalates quickly,” Phichit whispers, some sobriety regained in his tone.

Chapter Text

“I’m not even surprised that you own a KY fan blog,” Yurio says as he looks through Victor’s fridge, plucking out any half-decent items that he can find, “since you drool over him so much.”

Victor buries his face in his palms. When he had realized that he’d posted his raving about KY’s latest novel to the wrong blog, he’d deleted the post in a hurried frenzy, but there are copies of it all over the internet. Yakov had suggested that they try and pose it as a hacking scandal, but the fact of the matter is: Victor doesn’t care. He doesn’t care that the world knows about his admiration for KY’s novels, doesn’t even care that he’d inadvertently bashed himself while praising KY in that post. No, what he cares about is the fact that KY knows.

(Except, really, he doesn’t care about that either. He only cares that Phichit knows because that means, by extension, that Yuuri knows.)

Will Yuuri judge him now that he knows that Victor has fawned over his best friend for years? Will he see him differently?

When he expresses these concerns to Yakov, his boss blinks at him, shocked that he cares more about this than about his previously sterling reputation. Victor tells him just because he enjoys another author’s work—no matter how vehement this enjoyment may be—it doesn’t taint his own reputation in the slightest. The world had already known that KY was fantastic, and now they simply know that Victor sees that, too.

So it’s fine.

It’s fine.

It’s fine, but his phone has been in his hand for the past hour, and he has Yuuri’s phone number, and he wants to call. Wants to call so badly. He has floated his thumb over the button, has typed out and then deleted texts, has considered every possible form of communication from smoke signals to carrier pigeons. Instead, though, he sits on his couch and watches as Yurio grabs a baguette from his fridge and tears off the end, chomping on it.

“You keep your bread in the fridge?” Yurio asks through a mouthful, plopping down on a kitchen stool.

Victor ignores him, stares at his phone.

“It’s Yuuri, right? That’s what you’re freaking out about?”

At that, he glances up, confused.

Yurio rolls his eyes. “Everyone thinks that you’re worried about the whole posting-to-the-wrong-blog KY-fan scandal, but I know that you don’t care about that. You’ve got no shame, Nikiforov. But you care what your boyfriend thinks, right? Look—what does it matter? If he’s not already grossed out by you, then knowing that you have a fan account for your arch nemesis isn’t going to change that.”

“I think that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me,” Victor sighs.

“Call him,” he commands. “I don’t like seeing you all sappy like this. It makes you twice as annoying. Call him right here, right now.”

“And say what?”

He groans, takes another bite of the bread. “I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t think he thinks any less of you, so just go for it.”

For a while longer, Victor stares at the phone.

He stretches out his arms, grabs his laptop and opens it, needing a distraction. However, all he sees are comments about the scandal on every last one of his social media pages. The scandal that shouldn’t really be considered a scandal, should it, because since when is running a zealous fan blog a crime?

“Yuuri doesn’t care,” Yurio emphasizes. “Victor, seriously, why would he care?”

Victor shuts the laptop, pinches the bridge of his nose. “If I tell you something, you have to swear you won’t tell anyone.”

The blond looks hesitant now, leans forward. “Okay, I won’t.”

“Yuuri’s best friend, who he lives with, is named Phichit Chulanont. And he’s KY.”

“You know who KY is?”

“Yes.”

“And he’s your boyfriend’s best friend?”

He’s not sure that Yuuri is his boyfriend, officially, but if the shoe fits… “Yes.”

Yurio doesn’t necessarily look shocked, just thoughtful. He moves to sit on the arm of the couch opposite Victor, leaning his back on the corner of it. It doesn’t look comfortable, but he remains perched there, finishes off the bread he’d taken from the fridge. “So, what? You’re afraid that this guy—Phichit—is freaked out?”

“No,” he sighs, because really, he couldn’t care less about that. “But he’s Yuuri’s best friend.”

“You’re saying that Yuuri might think you used him to get to Phichit, like a rabid fan?”

Victor pales.

Yurio blinks. “Oh. You hadn’t… You hadn’t thought of that, had you?”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” he confirms. “But thanks for adding that.” Victor makes an exasperated noise, scrubs a hand down his face. “I need to talk to him in person. I need to talk to him in person, Yurio. I’m flying to Detroit.”

“You can’t just fly to Detroit,” Yurio informs him, the obnoxious voice of reason. “You really think it has to be done in person?”

“No. Yes. I don’t know.”

He’d done a quick interview about the scandal, and now his mission, according to Yakov, is just to keep his head low and let the book sales roll in. Stammi Vicino is selling well—impressively well—but so is History Maker. Nobody is sure who will win the month, though apparently Stammi Vicino had more pre-sale profits by a marginal amount.

Now, he’s just… Sitting.

And thinking.

(And it’s driving him crazy.)

His phone rings.

He jumps, almost falls off of the chair. Then, he scrambles to pick it up, reads the caller ID, internally begging for it to be the one person he so desperately wants it to be. But it’s Yakov Feltsman. Victor groans, loudly, and answers it, making sure that his groaning continues even after he has picked it up so that Yakov can hear it.

“Victor,” Yakov says.

“Not Yuuri,” Victor tells Yurio, then returns his attention to the phone. “Yes? Another interview? Another piece of news? Did the world find my KY merchandise collection, too?”

“You have a KY merchandise collection?” Yurio and Yakov ask at the same time.

“I’m kidding,” he bites out, because surely ten items doesn’t count as a collection.

Yakov clears his throat. “There’s an opportunity for a book signing in Grand Rapids.”

“Grand Rapids?” Victor repeats. It’s odd that Yakov is asking him to do a signing, since that seems to conflict with the concept of keeping his head low. At the same time, though, events are important for marketing. He already has several signings planned out over the course of the next few months, the first one taking place in a few weeks. But Grand Rapids doesn’t sound familiar.

“Michigan,” Yakov provides. “Grand Rapids, Michigan.”

His heart skips a beat. “Michigan?”

“It’s about a two hour drive from Detroit.”

There’s a second layer to Yakov’s tone—a knowing one. Victor grabs a pillow and hugs it to his chest, smiling brightly at Yurio. “Thank you, Yakov.”

“You’ll have four days there. There’s another signing in Chicago, a day after the Grand Rapids one. So that means you’ll have two extra days.”

“Thank you, Yakov,” Victor repeats, and Yurio is staring at him like he’s insane.

Yakov exhales. “You’re welcome, Vitya. It’s in a week.”

“A week?

Before he can further his complaints, Yakov has hung up.

Victor supposes beggars can’t be choosers.

 

~

 

Yuuri isn’t sure what to say when he reads the news.

When he’d first heard that Victor runs a fan blog about him, he’d been intoxicated, but now he’s sober and presented with the cold, hard truth. KY-fan1990 has essentially gone global, with people checking and refreshing the blog on an hourly basis. He wonders why Victor hasn’t taken the blog down—he’d taken the misplaced post down, after all. Yuuri would be lying if he were to say that he hadn’t skimmed through the blog himself, seen just a glimpse of the outlandish praise that Victor has said about him.

(Without knowing that it was him.)

“I messed this up,” Yuuri tells Phichit, resting his head on his friend’s shoulder.

Phichit has an arm around his side, offers a smile. “I don’t think you messed anything up. It’s not like this will change anything between you guys, will it?”

“He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know, and I thought he just liked my books, Phichit, I didn’t know that he… That he… I didn’t know about this.”

(One of Victor’s reviews had claimed that KY is not only the greatest author alive, but the greatest person to ever walk the Earth.)

(Another had claimed that his prose could move mountains, could make the sun rise in the west and set in the east. Could make oceans part.)

Needless to say, Victor is a fan, and Yuuri doesn’t know what to do.

“It’s obvious, now more than ever, that you have to tell him,” Phichit advises, rubbing Yuuri’s shoulder. “Don’t stress about it. I’m sure he’ll be surprised, but it won’t make him love you any less.”

Yuuri stares.

Like,” Phichit corrects himself. “Like you any less.”

“I could just not tell him,” Yuuri says, quiet, because he knows what his words entail. “Not see him again. Think about it—he lives halfway across the world. If he finds out that I’m KY, and he’d never been serious about our relationship in the first place, then telling him would just unnecessarily complicate things. I could break things off with him. Just go back to the way things were before we met, before any of this ever happened.”

Phichit opens his mouth to speak, but Yuuri continues.

“He writes, I write. We’re competitors, but we read each other’s novels. The way things were.” The more he speaks, the more his voice drops, the more his gaze droops. “The way things were.”

“Stop,” Phichit snaps. “You’re not… Yuuri, you don’t want that. Listen, think about it—what do you want? What’s your ideal outcome? Lay it out.” Yuuri meets his eyes, offers a blank stare. “I don’t care how crazy it seems to you. Lay it out for me.”

“I want…” He starts, then swallows. “I want to keep writing. And I want Victor to keep writing. But I want…” Yuuri’s voice trails off.

“Keep going,” he encourages.

“I like him. I like Victor. He’s…” Yuuri thinks about their conversations in the coffee shop, about the time they’d spent together in Saint Petersburg. The dancing, the laughter, the feeling of Victor’s lips on his, the cold air as they’d stood together on the balcony, the light in his eyes . The way that words spill from his lips, spill from his fingers when he types, the way that he thinks, the way that his mind works. Everything about him is beautiful, imperfectly immaculate. “I want to spend more time with him. I want…” I want him.

“I think he wants you, too,” Phichit tells him. “All you have to do is talk to him.”

Yuuri bites his lip, nods. “Thanks, Phichit. You’re a good friend.”

“I know,” he answers, teasing, and bumps his shoulder. “Now let’s go get sandwiches. I could go for chicken and cheddar on wheat right now.”

 

~

 

Seven days can’t pass quickly enough.

He doesn’t text Yuuri, and doesn’t receive a text from Yuuri. He assumes, though, that at some point Yuuri must’ve seen the announcement on his Facebook page—that he’ll be in Grand Rapids, Michigan for a last minute signing in a week’s time.

Yurio is sick of hearing Victor talk about Yuuri, but he doesn’t complain verbally—just gives him pitiful eyes and suggests that they do something else, whether it’s get food or talk about the marketing and publication of his own novel.

The scandal involving his review being posted to the wrong blog and the subsequent reveal of his fan blog quickly takes on a new name—#KYgate, otherwise known as #lubegate. It takes him a while for Victor to understand the joke, and then he realizes that KY is a lubricant brand. He wonders if Phichit knows that. Probably, by now.

And then, finally, he’s on a plane, bouncing his knee the entire time to the annoyance of the man next to him. He takes his freshly printed copy of History Maker with him as a sort of emotional crutch. He lands in Grand Rapids, but his returning flight will leave from Detroit.

(Because he’s planning on going to Detroit.)

(And seeing Yuuri.)

(And it’s possible, really, that his heart will burst before that’s able to happen, because he cannot wait.)

On Monday, when he arrives at a bookstore in Grand Rapids, he realizes for the first time how awkward these book signings will be. The first few fans don’t bring it up, but then a few do, and he simply laughs it off, saying that, yes, he does admire KY, does believe that he’s an incredible author with undeniable talent. The fans always appear to be shocked that he admits it with such ease, that he’s not flushing with embarrassment or denying it altogether. But why would he?

That afternoon, he’s driven to Chicago. The same thing the next day, aching hands and thoughts drifting far, far away from the bookstore. Signing is absent-minded, at this point—he’ll answer questions, smile for photos, sign the book, give them a wink if he feels it’s suiting. Fans always leave satisfied, talking excitedly to one another about this character or that scene.

“I read History Maker, too,” a woman in Chicago tells him, long, painted fingernails tapping the table that Victor is sitting at. “Between you and me, though, I preferred this.”

Victor’s expression tightens as he hands her the book. “Why?”

At that, she looks surprised. “Why did I… Why did I prefer your book?”

He nods, cracking his knuckles in an attempt to stretch out his sore fingers. “Yes.”

“I don’t… I don’t know.”

“Hmm.”

The next fan approaches.

Soon enough, the signing is over, and the following day he’s in the backseat of a car heading to Detroit. He stares out the window, suitcase by his side, phone in his hand. He should text Yuuri—he knows that. If they weren’t currently in a precarious situation, Victor would surprise him, as a romantic gesture. But, no, this time, he’ll text him.

I’m in Michigan.

For a while, there’s no response.

detroit? Yuuri asks, and it’s such a simple word, but Victor hasn’t talked to him in a week and he finds himself wanting to tell Yuuri about everything—how the trees on the side of the road look beautiful and how his coffee had tasted this morning and how that taste had reminded Victor of him and how much he has hated not talking to him and everything, everything. He could talk to him for hours.

Instead, he types three words. Are you busy?

the usual place?

Victor smiles, can hardly contain himself.The usual place. He’ll meet Yuuri at the usual place. Because they have a usual place. Sounds perfect. I’ll be there in an hour.

 

~

 

Victor is a block away from the coffee shop when he pauses.

He doesn’t know what Yuuri is thinking, doesn’t know what he has been doing for the past week. And he wants him—he wants him so badly, wants him more than he thinks his heart can handle. It occurs to him, now, that this is it. That for whatever reason, Yuuri might want to end this, might think he’s weird for being obsessed with his best friend, might think—god forbid—that Victor had been taking advantage of him like Yurio had suggested he might.

First, he breathes. Then, he walks.

And swings open the door. Yuuri is sitting in the corner, turned away from the entrance, his phone in his hand. Victor pauses in the doorway, because he’s there, and he’s real, and Victor had seen him a little over a week ago, but this feeling hasn’t changed since day one, this feeling of disbelief. He approaches, slides into the stool beside him.

“Come here often?”

Yuuri blinks at him, then realization crosses his features. His arms extend, but only halfway—as though he’s hesitant, unsure.

That movement is the only sign that Victor needs.

It’s a messy hug, with them both sitting on stools like this. Victor’s stool wobbles underneath him and he almost falls onto the ground, which wouldn’t be a good way to start this conversation. Yuuri catches him by his elbows and helps him regain his balance, and then they’re both laughing, breathless, captivated by the sight of each other.

The coffee shop is almost empty at this time of day, apart from a few people scattered throughout. Victor notes that although Yuuri doesn’t have a drink, there’s a half-eaten blueberry muffin on the table in front of him. He’s wearing a grey sweater and jeans, and Victor isn’t sure he has ever looked better than he does in this moment.

“Hi,” Yuuri says.

“Hi.”

Except, then, pain crosses Yuuri’s features.

“Sorry, Victor, I… I need to tell you something. It’s really important, and it can’t wait. Sorry, I know you just came all the way here, but I really need to get this out.”

It’s a stinging, an irreparable stinging. Victor tries not to let the pain show, tries to contain it and fails. He’d come all the way here, had prayed and hoped and desired… But he should’ve known, should’ve guessed that Yuuri wouldn’t be able to look at him the same way after knowing about the verses Victor had written time and time again about how incredible Yuuri’s best friend is.

Victor had thought that it wouldn’t matter, but judging by the look in Yuuri’s eyes, it had.

“You don’t have to say anything,” Victor says, quiet. “I know what you’re going to say.”

Yuuri pales. “You… You do?”

He nods, turns his head away. “I do, and I understand.”

(Of course, Victor doesn’t understand. But writing characters is what he does best, and perhaps he can write himself a new character who hasn’t fallen in love with Yuuri Katsuki, who isn’t heartbroken, who can move on from this with ease and an air of confidence. Perhaps, he thinks, he can rewrite himself.)

“You understand?” Yuuri asks. “What do you mean you—Victor, what do you think I’m talking about?”

“You want to end this,” Victor elaborates, and he makes a gesture towards the coffee shop, then towards himself.

“What?” he blurts. “You think…” Realization comes forth in an instant in the form of raised eyebrows and a slack jaw. “Do… Do you want to end this?”

“You don’t want to end this?”

“I thought, because you said, because you suggested that I want to, and I don’t… I wasn’t going to say… I wasn’t going to say that, but…” When Yuuri blinks, there are tears brewing in his eyes, remaining there, unmoving, like a threat. “I wasn’t going to say that but if you want to then that’s… That’s…”

“I don’t want that,” Victor admits, slowly realizing what’s happening. “Hang on, Yuuri, I don’t want that. Listen to me, okay? I’ve never wanted that. I thought, because of what happened, that you might want that. There’s something that I need to tell you, too, and I wasn’t sure how to tell you because at first I didn’t think that it would matter but then—”

“I’m KY.”

“—that information was released and I figured I had to tell you. Yakov set it up so that I could come here and that’s why I really just need to let you know that—what?”

A glistening tear slips down Yuuri’s pale cheek. He retracts, shoulders drawing inwards, as though bracing himself for impact. “Victor, I’m KY.”

“You’re…”

Victor starts laughing.

“No you’re not,” he says, because he’s not. Yuuri isn’t KY, Phichit is. Is he trying to cover up for his friend? What’s the point of that? And why would he—

He looks uncomfortable, shifts in his seat. “I am.”

Victor lowers his voice, suddenly conscious of the others in the coffee shop. “It’s okay, Yuuri. I know. Phichit is KY. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier, but I found out a long time ago. When we were at that restaurant, you left your phone face up on the table, and I accidentally read some texts he had sent to you.”

“You think that Phichit is KY?”

A sensation akin to vertigo swirls in his stomach. He starts to feel lightheaded.

Yuuri takes in a deep breath, then continues. “Victor. In Japan, we usually address people by their surname first. Then their given name.”

“Yuuri Katsuki, so…”

“Katsuki Yuuri,” Yuuri finishes, and searches his eyes. He’s fumbling with his hands on his lap, and then he pushes up his glasses, nervously sucking in a breath.

Victor doesn’t react.

Just stares.

“Katsuki Yuuri,” he repeats, slowly.

“Katsuki Yuuri,” Yuuri confirms.

“KY. That means Katsuki Yuuri?”

“That’s… Yes.”

(When is he supposed to wake up?)

(And is this what it feels like to have one’s mind short-circuit? Is this what it feels like to break? Because his brain isn’t working properly, thoughts aren’t coming forward—he can’t stitch together the pieces of the puzzle because if someone were to ask him to pronounce his own name right now, he’s fairly certain he’d get it wrong.)

“Are you upset?” the man across from him whispers. Then, suddenly, he takes Victor’s hand, laces their fingers, grounding him. “Victor?”

“I’m… You’re KY?”

Yuuri thinks for a second. “Hang on, I can prove it. Um… Okay, look.” He grabs his bag and takes out his laptop, begins pulling documents up on the screen. “See? Here’s a rough copy of History Maker. And here’s Dime a Dozen.

The documents are covered in highlights and notes.

They unmistakably belong to a writer.

“So you’re… You write?” Victor questions.

“Um, yes.”

“You write… You wrote… Everything KY wrote? You wrote?”

“Yes. Are you… Are you okay?”

Victor shakes his head. He gets up, releases Yuuri’s hand, and asks the barista for a cup of water. He sits back down and downs the whole thing in a few seconds, setting the cup on the table and pushing it away from him. “I run a fan blog about you?”

“Um, apparently, yes,” Yuuri replies, and he’s blushing now. “If it… If it’s of any consolation, I’m flattered.”

“And you read it? My fan blog? My fan blog about you?”

“I… Some of it, yes.”

Victor nods, slowly, and his thoughts are sluggishly returning to a semblance of coherency. But only a semblance. And not even that. “You’re KY. I run a fan blog dedicated to you, and now the world knows that. And I… We’re dating.

Yuuri looks surprised by that, but nods anyway.

“I’m dating KY.”

“Yes.”

“I run a fan blog dedicated to my boyfriend, KY.”

“When you put it that way… Do you need a minute? Um, I’ll get you more water.” Yuuri takes the cup and stands up, walks away.

Victor’s eyes don’t leave him for a second.

KY, walking in front of him.

(He’d always had a blurry image of KY in his mind. Of a smile. Yuuri casts him a smile as he fills the cup with water, a shy, nervous one, but a smile all the same. And, Victor realizes, it fits. It fits.)

(As he goes back through his memories with him, everything fits. As he thinks about the love portrayed in History Maker, it fits, because, yes, he can see Yuuri crafting those words, can picture him sitting down on a couch with his fingers flying across the keyboard, can picture him typing long into the night in a way that Victor had never been able to imagine Phichit doing.)

(It fits.)

Yuuri sits back down, hands him the water.

Victor doesn’t drink it.

“Are you mad?” Yuuri blurts, then. “Because I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier. At first, I was shocked that you’d want to spend time with me, because you’ve always been my favorite author. I was grateful for any time that we could have together. But then things changed so quickly and then you left and I… I was going to tell you, in Saint Petersburg. Do you remember, at the airport?”

I need to tell you something, Yuuri had said.

Victor had hugged him when he’d started stammering to get words out.

Oh.

Right.

That’s…

“Am I mad?” Victor repeats, and Yuuri nods, desperate for an answer. “I’m… I’m not mad, but… I just… You’re… I can’t believe… I need a minute.”

“Yes,” Yuuri exhales. “Yes, yes, sure. A minute. I understand.”

Victor doesn’t stop looking at him.

Yuuri licks his lips, focuses on the table as though it had just said something of interest.

“It makes sense,” Victor realizes out loud, because Yuuri’s anxiety is starting to permeate the air, starting to wrap around his throat.

“I would think so,” Yuuri answers.

He nods slowly. The silence is awkward, now, as Victor lets everything sink in. “Why didn’t you tell me from the start? At my book signing? Does Phichit know?”

“Phichit knows. I didn’t tell you at first because I didn’t think it’d matter, but then, as we got to know each other…” He avoids his eyes. “I didn’t want you to think differently of me. I was afraid of that.”

“Think differently of you?” Victor repeats.

It’s then that he starts to fully take in Yuuri’s appearance—his forehead glistens with sweat and the goosebumps on his arms haven’t faded. His posture is unnaturally stiff, the way that he’s bitting his lip looks almost unbearably painful. By being so lost in his own thoughts, Victor realizes, he has been killing him.

So he lets a slow smile spread across his features, makes sure that Yuuri can tell it’s genuine and meant only for him, and takes his hand again. “How could I ever think differently of Katsuki Yuuri?”

The tears from earlier return, but this time for a different reason. Yuuri leaps into his arms and Victor holds him, burying his face in the other man’s shoulder and realizing that, no, this isn’t KY in his arms—this is Yuuri Katsuki. Yuuri Katsuki who is a writer, but is still Yuuri Katsuki, who still orders drinks with caramel on top and who texts with autocorrect turned off and who knows more about famous authors than he does about the back of his own hand.

Still Yuuri Katsuki.

“Thank you for forgiving me,” Yuuri mumbles.

“Nothing to forgive. I understand, but I’m glad you told me. I guess this means I should tell you that I’m not actually Victor Nikiforov.”

He pulls away, frowns.

“Kidding,” Victor provides, then kisses him on the lips.

He means for it to be chaste, but Yuuri meets him with more than that, a hand coming up to tangle in Victor’s hair. Victor copies the movement, his other hand squeezing Yuuri’s fingers for reassurance, and he melts against Yuuri’s lips, his warmth, him.

“Victor Nikiforov and KY,” he mumbles, keeping their foreheads pressed together, lips just an inch away from Yuuri’s own. “That’s a dynamic duo, isn’t it?”

“Dynamic indeed,” Yuuri laughs, and then kisses him again, deeper this time. Victor can’t get enough, shifts his stool closer, almost letting it tumble again, but he figures death in a coffee shop would be worth it if he could just get five more seconds of kissing Yuuri Katsuki. “Do you want to go do something?” he adds.

They end up going to his apartment.

(Victor holds his hand the entire way there.)

(It makes him happier than it should, maybe—fills him with a sort of light that he hadn’t known existed before today. He swings their arms, and Yuuri laughs a little bit at the ridiculousness of it all, and so does Victor, and he notes aloud that perhaps this story would make a good book.)

His apartment is nice—carpeted floors and neatly arranged furniture. There’s a kitchen off to the left, connected to the foyer and living room, and there are two bedroom doors off to the right with a shared bathroom. “Phichit is at the rink right now,” Yuuri explains.

Victor laughs. “Phichit skates? Is that how you knew so much about skating?”

“I skate, too, sometimes,” Yuuri adds, smiling back. “It’s a hobby. But, yeah, that’s how. So, um… Do you want to order lunch? Or talk more? Or…”

He’s still nervous, Victor realizes. Not quite the open and lighthearted Yuuri that Victor knows and loves. But Victor will do whatever he can do to convince him that, yes, he’s more than okay with this revelation. “I want to talk. Where do you write?”

“The couch, or my room, or the coffee shop.”

“Can I see your room?”

Yuuri hesitates.

Victor brings Yuuri’s hand to his lips and kisses a knuckle. “Please?”

“You can’t… If you don’t judge it, okay?”

“Judge it? Why would I judge it?”

As soon as he enters, he realizes what Yuuri is talking about.

There’s a wall covered entirely in sticky notes. From the floor to the ceiling. White sticky notes, yellow ones, big ones, small ones, pastel ones, even a few heart-shaped and star-shaped ones. And all are scribbled on.

“Phichit calls it my brain dump wall,” Yuuri explains, watching Victor’s reaction. “I know it’s sort of weird.”

Victor steps closer, plucks one sticky note off of the wall and reads it. They’re all story ideas. Some expand upon other story ideas, and in a few places there are sticky notes stacked on top of each other. “What’s this one?”

It reads Victor.

(The ‘i’ is dotted.)

“Nothing, nothing,” Yuuri says, snatching it out of his hand and hesitating before sticking it back on the wall. When he realizes that Victor isn’t going to drop the topic, he ducks his head, takes in a breath. “I… I wanted to write about you. I don’t know, at some point. Maybe a character inspired by you. You’re just…” He pauses, and when he continues, there’s a newfound confidence to his tone. “You’re interesting. The way that you act. The things that you do. If I were to write you, it’d be hard to capture that, because the way that you are is hard to explain in words.”

Victor doesn’t say anything—isn’t sure what to say.

“It’s like you’re drowned in diamonds,” Yuuri explains, “but the materialism—the diamonds themselves—they aren’t what truly make you happy. What makes you happy is watching the light reflect off of them. Does that make sense?”

Victor hugs him again, and this time Yuuri’s feet are lifted off of the floor. “You make me happy,” he tells him. “No metaphors required.”

“You make me happy,” Yuuri answers, then kisses him.

“Can I read all of them?” he asks, gesturing towards the wall of story ideas.

Yuuri looks surprised. “You’d want to?”

“I’d pay good money to.”

At that, he laughs, then nods. “You can read them.”

Then, Victor approaches the small bookshelf in the corner. Victor's novels are propped up so that the covers show, and he sees Yuuri’s signed copy of Fragile as Glass front and center, proudly displayed. When he picks it up, however, he sees that the pages are highlighted—he hadn’t noticed that at the signing. Bits and pieces are circled, other parts have large stars or exclamation points written beside them.

He picks up another one of his books, and it’s the same. Then another.

“I like to remember my favorite parts,” he explains.

Then Stammi Vicino. It’s the same.

There are more books, too, a wide variety of different authors and titles. None of them are annotated in the same way that Victor’s are.

At the bottom of the shelf, tucked away, are Yuuri’s own novels. A shiny new copy of History Maker. Victor picks it up, thumbs through the pages. “Ever since I thought I’d found out that KY was Phichit, it never fit. Picturing him writing this, it never fit. But if I think about you… Then it fits.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“I can’t even tell you how happy I am that you know,” Yuuri blurts. “It was like this, thing, weighing on me, like a rain cloud permanently floating above my head, and now I’m just so glad you’re not upset. But…”

“But what?” Victor asks, turning around.

Yuuri sits down on his bed. “Now what?”

(Now what?)

Victor thinks for a moment. “Can I tell Yurio? And Yakov? Maybe a few others? They’ll keep it to themselves, I swear on their behalf.”

“I don’t mind, as long as the world doesn’t find out. I like my privacy.”

He nods, understanding. “I vote that we worry about the future later. For now, for today, I want to talk to you about History Maker. Because I have a lot to say.”

Yuuri laughs. “I sort of already read your review. The whole world did.”

“It barely scratched the surface,” he explains, then sits down beside Yuuri on the bed. “I need to give you my detailed praise.”

“Your detailed praise?”

“Very, very detailed,” Victor explains, and shifts closer to him, their thighs touching as he kisses his neck, one hand on his shoulder to steady him. Yuuri leans his head back to give him better access and Victor hums at the taste of his skin, shuts his eyes as he continues his praise. He works his way down to Yuuri’s pulse point, then to his collarbone. “I liked it,” he tells him. “A lot.”

“I liked Stammi Vicino,” Yuuri answers, voice sounding drowsy, content.

“Good. One thing, though.” He pulls away from Yuuri’s neck, meets his eyes. “Did you really have to injure Marcus in chapter fourteen? I mean, I know you had to, because of what it did for the plot and for the characterization, but it hurt me, Yuuri. You hurt me.”

Yuuri brushes his hand through Victor’s hair. “Is this what our relationship is going to be like from now on? Because in Stammi Vicino, the way that you described the character’s initial depression was heartbreakingly beautiful, and chapter… Hang on.” He stands, fetches the book off of the shelf, then sits back down. For a second, he flips through the pages, then pauses, pointing at a highlighted paragraph. “This part. Chapter twenty-one. This was my favorite part.”

 

~

 

Eventually, they’re lying down, Victor’s head resting on Yuuri’s chest as Yuuri drifts his fingers through his hair. He holds Stammi Vicino in his other hand, and they quietly discuss it, but he can tell that Victor is too drowsy at this point to hold a decent conversation. He’d had two books signings, and mingled with his jet-lag and car trips, it makes sense that he’d be tired.

“Sorry, we can keep talking later,” Victor mumbles against his shirt. “I definitely want to.”

“Don’t apologize. Do you want to sleep on our couch?”

He shifts his head onto Yuuri’s shoulder, yawns again, and this time Yuuri can feel his breath hot against his neck. “Is here okay?”

Yuuri rests an arm on Victor’s shoulder to get more comfortable, but keeps his other hand in Victor’s hair. “It’s okay,” he promises, and that appears to be all the sign Victor needs, because a second later, he’s silent, silver eyelashes contrasting against pale skin, chest flush against Yuuri’s side.

Of course, that’s when Yuuri hears their main door unlock.

He winces with anticipation.

“Yuuri?” Phichit calls.

By some miracle, Victor doesn’t wake up.

Phichit walks past his bedroom door, freezes in his tracks. His jaw drops. “You’re—”

Yuuri takes his hand out of Victor’s hair and presses a finger to his lips, indicating for Phichit to be quiet. Phichit silences himself, but keeps his eyes glued on Victor Nikiforov, who is currently searching for Yuuri’s touch again, unconsciously shifting. Slightly embarrassed, Yuuri puts his hand back in his hair and begins his earlier soothing motions, this time letting his nails lightly scrape across Victor’s scalp. The man on top of him stills again, evidently content.

Phichit mouths, silently, What happened? How did he get here?

With a single look, Yuuri promises to explain later. Phichit seems to understand.

A second later, Phichit gives him an impressed thumbs up.

If Yuuri wasn’t blushing before, then he certainly is now.

 

~

 

When Victor flies home, he’s overly excited to share the news.

But he remembers what Yuuri had said about his identity being a carefully guarded secret, and he plans on respecting that completely. So he brings Mila, Sara, Yakov, Christophe, Georgi, and Yurio into a room. They surround him, looking confusedly at one another.

“Yuuri is KY,” he reveals.

A pause.

“You didn’t realize that?” Mila asks.

Victor freezes. “What?

“Yuuri Katsuki. Katsuki Yuuri,” she explains, glancing around. “Seriously, nobody figured that out except for me? Whenever you talked about Yuuri, you’d get this wild look in your eyes, this, like, fervor. It’s the same look you got whenever you talked about KY. Not a hard connection to make.”

“You’ve been dating KY this whole time?” Yurio asks. “And you seriously never found out? How is that even possible? You thought it was his best friend?

“There was… There was a mix-up.”

Yurio stands up, leaves the room. “I’m out. I swear, I’m done with you.” He hesitates in the doorway. “But… Congrats, I guess.” Then he’s gone.

“This is the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard,” Georgi declares.

Yakov and Sara note that they’d always suspected something.

Christophe claps him on the back, tells him that this is great news, since Victor is now dating the man he’d admired for years on end.

 

~

 

Yuuri—or KY—is the best-selling author of the year.

However, according to their ongoing pattern, Victor should take that title next year. And then Yuuri again. And then Victor. And so on and so forth. Victor assures him, as he plays with Yuuri’s fingers and kisses his neck, that just because they’ve been dating for a little over a year now, he’s not going to back down.

Yuuri promises that he won’t, either, and a healthy rivalry forms between them, replacing the detached one that had been there before.

Victor moves to Detroit, but visits Saint Petersburg often. He communicates with his editors over Skype, attends business meetings when necessary. It’s not perfect, but luckily Yakov has been wanting to upsize the publishing company’s space for a while now, and he has his eye on a building in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that might be perfect.

Victor and Yuuri drink coffee every morning.

(At the same coffee shop, where every barista now knows them by name.)

During interviews, Victor freely speaks of his lovely husband, Yuuri, and of his greatest rival, KY. He’ll meet Yuuri’s eyes in the audience, and the interviewer always seems to know that something is going on, but they never quite figure out what.

Of course, there are conspiracies online about the irony of Yuuri’s initials being “KY” backwards, but more often than not, they’re shut down due to how outrageous of a suggestion it is. Victor always laughs it off when these theories are presented to him in person.

 

~

 

One morning, three years later, they’re at a local park, cloud gazing on a blanket.

“I’m ready,” Yuuri says, then.

Victor pulls Yuuri onto his chest, wraps both arms around him and kisses the back of his head. “Ready for what?”

“To tell everyone. I think I’m ready.”

He breathes in, deep, and shuts his eyes. He smells Yuuri’s shampoo, reaches for his hand and feels the golden ring on his finger. “If you are, then I support you, one hundred percent.”

“I know. But do you think it’s a good idea?”

“I do,” Victor admits, because he always has. “The world should know that my husband is handsome, intelligent, and prolific,” he tells him, then squeezes his sides playfully.

Yuuri squirms on top of him, laughing. “Then I’ll do it. I’ll tell everyone.”

“How would you do it?”

“I’ll write a book.”

“What, like an autobiography? KY: Revealed?

He laughs, shifts so that he’s lying beside Victor, meeting his gaze. “No. Well, sort of. I’ll write our story. Like a fiction piece, except it’s based on what really happened.”

Victor had wondered, since the day he’d met Yuuri, how he’d write him.

(At first, he thought he’d use fountains of literary devices. He’d pour them out and shape them and craft words in order to get as close as possible. He’d edit and edit until he’d done him justice, until he’d perfectly described the feeling that Victor gets around him, that weightlessness, that sense of acceptance, of love.)

(Then, he thought, no, he’d use simple language. Because general terms would be the best way to describe him—getting into the intricacies is unnecessary when it comes to Yuuri Katsuki. Though he’s hard to generalize, abstract words and phrases may be the best way to approach such a problem.)

(Or maybe lists. A list of all the things that he is, a list of all the things that he does—he writes prose so elegant it could bring anyone with a capability for emotions to tears, he laughs so magically that it could hold the attention of an entire room, he talks so excitedly that Victor could listen to him all day, every hour, for the rest of his life.)

(Lists, literary devices, simple language, perhaps a combination of all three. Perhaps bullet points. Maybe a wall of sticky notes. Maybe speaking the words aloud would help, or maybe thinking them time and time again. Maybe he could write them on restaurant napkins, in the sky, on a piece of lined notebook paper.)

There are thousands of ways that he could write Yuuri Katsuki.

But, over time, Victor realizes that he doesn’t have to.

That right here, right now, he’s content.

So, he leans closer to him. There’s a love heavy in both his heart and mind. A love that doesn’t need a definition, because it’s real, and that’s all that matters.

“And what would you call it?”