One of the many things his mother always mentions when she gets going about exactly why she’s so proud of her son is his temper. And it’s true, Yuuri definitely showed a calmer, more focused state of mind than that of his peers over the years, a side of him that only grew the more dedicated to his skating he became. One can’t reasonably affirm that he’s serene by any stretch of the imagination, but as far as anyone can tell, anger just seems like a foreign concept to him.
So he’s not very proud of the way his fists clenched about ten minutes ago and are refusing to uncurl while he watches Viktor enjoying the animated conversation he’s having with their waitress as they’re about to leave the restaurant.
And Yuuri’s not even exaggerating about those ten minutes. He’s checked.
Viktor’s like a drug addict when it comes to interacting with his fans, or anyone that shows admiration to him for that matter. His fiancé knows that and has never had a problem with it. His own ego is considerably less huge so it doesn’t need feeding so often and not in such outrageous quantity either, as he likes to tease him. But somehow, it feels so much better when it’s blushing teenagers accompanied by their apologetic parents. So much less like a threat.
And to think the evening has been going so well. Adjusting to life in St Petersburg has been hard, of course it has. The country and its customs were completely unfamiliar at first, the language is not an easy one to grasp and there’s no onsen to soak in after a stressful day. But he has Viktor and Makkachin and he’s in a much better place than when he moved to Detroit with no familiar faces to support him. Plus, the skaters at their rink are truly amazing to him. So slowly, he’s adjusted, and tonight is one of the increasingly more frequent nights when he can relax and enjoy the food and the company.
In fact, Viktor has been doing such a good job at building up his self-esteem that Yuuri hasn’t noticed at first. But as the conversation goes on – in a rapid-fire Russian that he can’t follow –, he can’t not see the fluttering eyelids and the touches that linger and the bright laugh. Viktor’s not reciprocating her advances per say but his sparkling ocean eyes and charming camera-ready smile aren’t exactly doing anything to deter her either.
The name of their rink thrown in the conversation catches his attention, and then:
“Maybe I could come by your rink sometime.”
That particular bit is familiar enough that Yuuri picks it up easily. The rest of the sentence is lost on him, and then Viktor laughs his interview laugh and his answer completely evades Yuuri’s fragile grasp on Russian as well. But he doesn’t need to hear the rest to feel his blood turn to ice in his veins.
Yuuri’s actually so ordinary that he doesn’t even register as competition in that girl’s mind, the matching rings all but invisible to her. The thought revives the feeling of inadequacy with such ease that he feels a bit betrayed by his own brain.
The pattern of swirling negative thoughts is distinctive enough that he recognizes it easily but that does little to help the unavoidable storm of anxiety. The warm atmosphere of the restaurant suddenly feels suffocating. Unfortunately, even though he’s scarcely been addressed in the last ten minutes, Yuuri’s way too polite to just leave. His manners cruelly glue him to the spot a mere inches away from his fiancé and the girl that unabashedly chats him up. All he can do is watch silently, feeling himself growing less and less consequential by the second.
Finally, Viktor’s brain catches up with the reality of time passing by. He exchanges warm goodbyes with the waitress, who at that moment seems to remember that Viktor wasn’t dining alone tonight and extends her farewells to Yuuri as well. His reply is less than cordial but like the rest of his person, that goes unnoticed.
On the short trip back to their apartment, a giddy Viktor is babbling on something that Yuuri hasn’t been able to catch. His brain is busy conjuring up the memories of all the times his fellow skaters implied that it was a good thing Viktor finally settled and got engaged.
He abruptly interrupts that particular train of thoughts before it crashes him into a wall but being able to do that doesn’t make him feel any better. The anxiety is still bubbling up painfully inside and it saps his energy to a point where he’s unable to pretend he’s listening to Viktor any longer.
At that point, they’re in the elevator on the way up to their floor, Yuuri’s throat is impossibly tight and his eyes are stinging dangerously. He notices belatedly that Viktor has stopped talking. Viktor grabs his hand and squeezes it gently but refrains from touching him any further, as he’s learned that it can makes things worse sometimes. Viktor can be inept and awkward but his willingness to learn is close to baffling. Sometimes, Yuuri suspects him to secretly take lessons from Phichit.
And that’s what actually makes it worse. How can he even start to explain his weakness to someone so loving and attentive and perfect? Everything he comes up with sounds ridiculous. “I’m mad because you were friendly with that cute waitress”? This has to be the most childish thing he could ever say. He’s ruining their night, that’s what he’s doing.
Viktor’s thumb is rubbing circles on his hand, wordlessly prodding him to talk but not pushing him otherwise. But Yuuri’s voice is nowhere to be found so they make their way to their door in silence. Yuuri’s muscles feel stiff and barely respond to his will, it’s nothing short of a miracle that he reaches it without stumbling.
Makkachin is already bouncing silently when the door pushes open and Viktor scratches her fondly with a few loving words in Russian. Only when he removes his coat does he briefly lets go of Yuuri’s hand, and when he catches it again it’s to lead him to the kitchen. Cold has seeped into Yuuri’s bones so he keeps his own coat and scarf on, knowing distantly it’s just his nerves making him chilly.
As he takes a seat at the counter, Viktor starts preparing tea. As the water boils, he bends on the counter, resting his chin on his joined fingers, and speaks softly. “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to. But I just want to say–“ He treads his slender fingers in his silver hair before continuing. “I’m sorry I ignored you for so long to talk with the waitress. She’s a long-time fan and she was just so enthusiastic. I-I know it doesn’t excuse anything and that your Russian isn’t that good yet. You probably didn’t get a word of what we were saying–“
Yuuri’s icy fingers clench around the empty cup in front of him, his whole frame tensing. Anger and shame fight for dominance in his mind. “It’s not that.” He interrupts rudely and immediately regrets his annoyed tone. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath in a futile attempt to get his emotions back under control. All bite leaves him as he crumbles upon himself. The taut string keeping his emotions in check is about to snap, he can feel it.
“Then what is it?” Viktor’s tone is carefully neutral, eager to understand but afraid to set him off. Yuuri hates it.
“I– It’s just– She liked you.”
“Well, like I said, she’s a fan–“
“No. I mean, she really liked you.” His voice is small, so very small. “She kept touching you and smiling at you like I wasn’t even there and– And everyone keeps saying you settled for me–“ He stops before he can embarrass himself any further. His heart relocated itself in his throat so it’s not like he can talk anymore anyway.
There’s a shocked silence to follow his clumsy explanation. Though Yuuri doesn’t dare look up from his fidgeting fingers, he can imagine the face Viktor must be making right now. This is all beyond ridiculous.
“Please Yuuri, can I hold you?”
Viktor’s words are so soft, it caresses his aching soul and makes his heart swell. He nods. At least that way he’ll be able to hide the tears he can feel coming.
Viktor envelops Yuuri in a tight embrace, one of his hand protectively covering his head and the other one wrapping around his shaking frame. Yuuri buries his face in the crook of Viktor’s neck, trying for a second not to sob and failing utterly.
No words of reassurance are uttered, and Yuuri is immensely grateful for that. There used to be a time when Viktor showered him with praises in the hope that it would help rebuild his self-esteem, words that would actually cut him deep and drown him in guilt. Now Viktor just waits for his tormented mind to settle itself and see things the way they are – bright, steady and full of promises. That silent faith in Yuuri’s ability to vanquish his inner demons means the world to him.
Viktor holds him, rocks him, caresses his hair, the safe and warm embrace never faltering, and his silent support reminds Yuuri that he still has this, that Viktor was never even close to leaving. Of course he wasn’t. The anxiety gradually quiets down as embarrassment rises to take its place, but it’s almost welcomed – it’s the sign that the storm will be over soon. At long last Yuuri feels the crushing feeling deflate and fade away, leaving him empty and exhausted. He waits for his throat to loosen up a little before he speaks again. “I’m sorry, I know you think I’m g-great but sometimes I–“
“I know, solnyschko, it’s okay. Your mind works against you sometimes, it’s not your fault. You’ve been doing so much better, you’re allowed to relapse.” The trace of pain is faint in Viktor’s voice, but Yuuri doesn’t allow himself to beat himself up about it. “I’m so proud of you, love. You’re so strong.”
There’s a nagging fear that stayed behind when the rest of them left, and Yuuri hears the words escaping him before he can do anything to hold them back. “I didn’t ruin our date night?”
“You ruined nothing at all. The evening was delightful, I had a very pleasant time with you. Still am, by the way.”
“Okay,” Yuuri whispers, finally at peace. And then he adds with a tired but happy smile, “Me too.”
Yuuri feels Viktor’s lips in his hair, his arms around him, his scent drowning him, and feels himself melt in the embrace of his perfect fiancé.