It all started a few months before the Grand Prix Series. Yuuri was on FaceTime with his sister, trying to tell her about all of the progress he was making as a skater (and, yes, she was listening, even if she didn’t completely understand everything that he was saying, he knew that), when she butted in with: “Don’t you do anything but work?”
Yuuri blinked in surprise, the question throwing him off guard at first. “I skate?” Was his complete and total answer, unsure what his sister was even trying to suggest of him.
“Yuuri, that doesn’t count. Skating for you is work. Don’t you go to parties or something? You’re in college! Phichit would probably be able to find you something fun to do!” She insisted, and Yuuri sighed, knowing that she wouldn’t leave this conversation until he agreed to have ‘more fun’. Skating was fun! It didn’t count that it also happened to be what he was doing with his life at the moment.
“I’m not really… Parties don’t really sound appealing, Mari.” He sighed, laying back on his bed, staring at the ceiling, watching Phichit methodically clean the hamster cage (honestly, how did he even get away with having those things? Sure, they were adorable, but they definitely were not within the agreement they signed for this apartment). “I’m an awful drunk, like Dad, anyway. That wouldn’t be fun, it would just be humiliating.”
“Don’t you want to meet people?” Mari continued to push.
“I have Phichit!” His friend looked up at the mention of his name, grinning and giving Yuuri a thumbs up even though Yuuri knew that he could only pick up the basics of his conversation with his sister. Yuuri rolled his eyes, smiling fondly at his friend before motioning at him to pay attention to his hamsters, one of which was trying very hard to escape from its temporary home (a box one of them had received a package in a few weeks ago).
Phichit grabbed the hamster as Mari answered, “Phichit doesn’t count. He was a forced friendship, because you skate with him and you live with him. And don’t give me shit about having other friends there, you know what I mean, Yuuri. You’ve been there for nearly five years and unless you’ve been hiding it from me, you haven’t dated anyone!”
“Maybe I’m not interested in dating anyone!” Yuuri shot back, but he knew Mari’s response before she even had to say it.
“Bullshit, Yuuri. You’d be great with a boyfriend or girlfriend, and we all know you’re hung up on that Russian skater you’ve never met.” And Yuuri sighed, because it was really no use trying to tell his sister that he was not hung up on Viktor Nikiforov. Just because Yuuri had a… few posters of him, and a body pillow, and… y’know, other merch didn’t mean that he wanted to date Viktor Nikiforov.
“I don’t have time to go on dates and stuff, Mari. The Grand Prix Series is coming soon, and I’m probably qualifying, and Celestino thinks I might have a chance of actually making it into the Finals, so I need to pay attention to my skating or else – “
“Listen to me and don’t say a word until I’m done.” Mari cut in, and Yuuri obediently silenced, letting her say whatever it was that she was going to say. “You’re an awesome skater, Yuuri, and Celestino is probably right, but working yourself to death isn’t going to do you any good. Maybe don’t even go on any dates until after the Final! You can wait until the Final to ever say that you’re going to date, just… talk to someone.”
“Mari, how would I just talk to someone who wants me to be interested in dating them?”
“Online dating!” Mari exclaimed, and Yuuri blinked, a sense of dread filling his stomach, because something gave him the feeling that this was already a done deal, and not something that he could simply get out of. “I already sent Phichit your username and password, and he is going to help you set the rest of it up.” His sister and roommate were familiar enough with each other that this didn’t really surprise Yuuri, even if he did feel a little betrayed by Phichit still ‘innocently’ cleaning the hamster cage. “I’m not saying this has to turn into anything, Yuuri, just… try talking to someone. Even just one person. It could be good for you.”
“I’m only saying yes because I know that you and Phichit won’t let me out of this.” Yuuri groaned, looking over to his friend, while his sister went on about the site she’d picked (something about it being international, because he would probably eventually come back to Hasetsu, that she already filled in a lot of his profile, and that he’d be fine).
“Good! Okay, then work with Phichit and finish setting it up! This could be good for you, Yuuri. Plus, it’s not like you ever have to meet up with anyone you talk to, you could probably even go into it just saying you’d probably just like friends if you’re more comfortable with that.” She soothed him, and Yuuri smiled, because he knew that if he’d acted even slightly more uncomfortable with the idea, his sister would have dropped it and made sure that Phichit never mentioned it.
“Whatever you say. Goodbye, Mari. I’ll talk to you next week.” Yuuri kept the app open long enough to hear his sister say goodbye as well before clicking it off and turning toward Phichit, narrowing his eyes at his friend’s increasingly innocent act.
“Mari told me what you two plotted.” He switched to English again to talk to his roommate, and apparently just bringing it up was enough to make Phichit light up.
“So you agreed?” He grinned, saying nothing more until he finished cleaning and setting the hamsters back into their cage. “Yuuri, it’ll be awesome! And if you meet any creeps on there, I’ll fight them for you, don’t worry.” Phichit grinned at him, and Yuuri rolled his eyes at him.
“I only agreed because I knew you and Mari would try to push me to do something else if I didn’t.” Phichit ignored him, already unlocking Yuuri’s phone (because it was no use having a code Phichit didn’t know, he’d figure it out somehow, or else he’d take selfies with Yuuri’s phone locked until he nearly filled the phone’s entire memory).
“I downloaded it on your phone last night, because I was hoping you’d say yes, or at least not notice it until I deleted it. So Mari and I already got a lot of it up. We need a more recent picture, but we listed some of your interests as figure skating, dogs, and food, and said that you were from Japan but in America, but we didn’t say where, because we didn’t know how comfortable you’d be. And we need to put down your career, I just wanted to make sure you were okay with it saying figure skating, and we clicked the box for men and women, so you don’t need to worry about that, and – The rest should be done. Smile!” Phichit took the phone and aimed it at Yuuri’s face, which was shocked in the first few pictures, and then he forced a smile. Phichit kept taking pictures until he nodded at one, doing something (probably uploading it) and glancing to Yuuri.
“Um…” This was sort of a lot of overwhelming information in a few seconds, but he’d be fine. “I… I mean, I am a figure skater, so I guess we have to list that. We can say Michigan, but probably not Detroit.” He was already planning how to avoid using this app at all costs.
“Perfect!” Phichit typed for a few more seconds before passing Yuuri’s phone back off to him. “I put it in your folder with Instagram and other social media apps so you’d be able to find it easily.” He grinned at Yuuri, obviously trying to be helpful, and Yuuri smiled kindly in return. Really, Phichit was awesome, if overwhelming. And he knew they’d both drop it if he really didn’t want it (a point he had to keep reiterating to himself).
Yuuri didn’t touch the app for three days. Maybe it was embarrassment, or maybe just because he was nervous about it, but he didn’t want to even look at it. He went and trained with Celestino, and did his work, and ignored that it even existed. He was fine.
And then on Friday, Phichit got invited to a party and Yuuri didn’t want to go with him, but encouraged him to still go. So Phichit was gone, and Yuuri was alone in their apartment with the squeaking of his hamsters and the methodical clicking and screeching of the wheel that Phichit really needed to fix in their cage.
And that was what finally drove him to pick up his phone, and look for the app, opening it up to see an influx of matches that they had selected for him (as well as a few messages of people already having liked his profile, or sent him a message). The majority of the messages were either creepy or too awkward to respond to, so he deleted them and blocked the creepier.
After he’d gone through all of the notifications the app had been dinging him with for days, Yuuri started scrolling through the matches, sighing. Why had he agreed to letting Mari and Phichit do this to him? He was about to close the app when a profile caught his eye, and he blushed red.
v-nikiforov was the username, matched with a picture of Viktor Nikiforov that Yuuri (was shocked to admit that he) had never seen before. While, of course, it was ridiculous to imagine his idol using this app, Yuuri stared at the profile for a moment before clicking through it, smiling at the answers they’d given to all of the ridiculous questions the app asked. A few would have been obvious answers from Viktor’s various answers in interviews, but some they had to make up, and they were just… so Viktor that Yuuri felt himself being charmed by someone who was pretending to be his idol on an online dating site.
It was probably the picture of Viktor kissing Makkachin’s cheek that finally got Yuuri (who, at this point, was incredibly embarrassed) to like the profile, turning the app off and setting his phone down to go to sleep.
In the morning, he woke up to see that more people had liked his profile on the app, and he scrolled down, smiling softly when he saw that v-nikiforov had. It wasn’t like he’d ever talk to the profile or anything, but it was still touching that someone pretending to be Viktor Nikiforov liked his online dating profile (and a little embarrassing. He hoped whoever it was didn’t know who he was, and didn’t mention this online or anything).
He kept the notification, going into his messages, where he froze when he saw one from v-nikiforov.
v-nikiforov: hi!!!! :) i’m viktor nikiforov, which you could probably guess from my profile, haha!!!
v-nikiforov: i saw you liked dogs? what’s your opinion on poodles?
Make that two from Viktor Nikiforov (no, Yuuri reminded himself, the person pretending to be Viktor Nikiforov), one sent right after the other. He stared at them for a long moment, looking around the room before breathing out. What was the harm in responding?
k-yuuri: i’m yuuri. it’s nice to meet you, viktor.
k-yuuri: i love poodles :) i have one back in japan that my sister takes care of while i’m gone
He just hoped that v-nikiforov wouldn’t ask for his poodle’s name, because even admitting to a fake Viktor that he named his poodle after the other skater felt a little bit ridiculous. He set his phone to the side to open up his homework, and nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard his phone ring beside him – signaling a new message.
v-nikiforov: send me pictures!!!!!! this is my makkachin :) such a good dog <333
Attached to the message were three different pictures of Makkachin, none of which Yuuri had ever seen before. Where were they getting these pictures? He was following Viktor’s Instagram and Twitter, and it was unmistakably Viktor’s gigantic poodle in the pictures. Was there some new social media that Viktor had that Yuuri wasn’t aware of? Surely, Phichit would’ve told him that.
k-yuuri: makkachin’s cute, haha!
k-yuuri: this is my most recent picture of my poodle my sister has sent me
He attached the picture of Vicchan Mari had sent them last time they talked, curled up underneath a table fast asleep while business clearly hustled around him, not caring in the slightest. Yuuri smiled softly at the poodle, wishing he could have brought Vicchan with him here. But it was too far, and the apartment didn’t allow pets (which was why the hamsters were still an enigma to Yuuri).
v-nikiforov: :o he’s so SMALL!!!!!
v-nikiforov: i can’t ever remember makka being that small i’ve had her for so long <333
And Yuuri texted this fake Viktor about poodles for four hours, smiling at all of the pictures and stories they provided, all sounding amazingly in character for Viktor, but feeling a little sad as the conversation progressed. This wasn’t Viktor Nikiforov, Yuuri had no idea who he was talking to right now, and it… frankly, it wasn’t fair. He was actually enjoying this conversation, and he was knowingly being catfished.
What made it worse was that they probably knew that he was aware, too, since he’d listed that he was interested in figure skating and was a figure skater. Why did they bother messaging him?
That didn’t stop him from five hours of nonstop communication with v-nikiforov, trading stories and fun facts about their dogs, their favorite foods, where they came from and where they’d been. Neither of them mentioned figure skating, which was obviously a hard topic, because… well, that’s where they’d both know that this was over. Was it even possible that v-nikiforov was enjoying their conversation as much as Yuuri?
It was nearly four o’clock when the conversation finally had to end.
v-nikiforov: i’ve got practice early tomorrow so i have to go x(
v-nikiforov: i hope i’ll talk to you soon? <333
v-nikiforov: but it may be a few days :( yakov is awful with the grand prix coming soon
v-nikiforov: спокойной ночи <3
Yuuri looked up the Russian phrase, and saw that it simply meant goodnight, so he smiled, messaging back his own similar goodbye before setting his phone down, blinking.
And this was how it went on for about a week. Every day, Yuuri would message v-nikiforov in his free time, and when Viktor was answering. He didn’t pick up at all for two days, the next day coming back with an apology for being in practice – just proving how much they were taking this game. They were so interesting, though! Not just in pretending to be Viktor, but they told such good stories, and they were riveting, and…
It was the second day of silence, just over a week after he’d started messaging v-nikiforov that he knew that he had to admit to Phichit what he was doing. They were sitting in the apartment, watching re-runs of some awful American show, and Yuuri glanced at Phichit, trying to figure out how to bring up the topic.
“So, um… I’ve been using the app you and Mari downloaded for me.” He blushed red, looking up at Phichit, who’d dropped his interest in the show in immediate excitement.
“Yuuri, you’ve met someone!”
“No, I haven’t! I haven’t! But I have been talking to someone, and, uh…” He rubbed the back of his neck, feeling awkward for even thinking about admitting it, but Phichit wouldn’t drop it now, so he swallowed and let go of it all at once. “I’ve been talking to an account that’s pretending to be Viktor Nikiforov. Not, like, to date them or anything, I just – they’re… really interesting.”
Trying to qualify what he was doing did nothing, and he expected Phichit to start laughing at him, but his friend just grinned, extending his hand in an unspoken request for his phone. Yuuri handed it off and let Phichit scan through their messages from the week. “They’re good!” Phichit grinned. “Have you seen some of these pictures? Where do you think they get them all?”
And Phichit wasn’t laughing, so Yuuri grinned, leaning over. “I don’t know,” He admitted. “I haven’t seen a lot of them, which is weird, because…” He trailed off, blushing again, knowing that Phichit knew exactly how that sentence ended. Because Yuuri had an unreasonable obsession with Viktor Nikiforov.
“That’s so weird, Yuuri. You’ve got competition for Viktor Nikiforov’s number one fan,” He teased, shoving Yuuri’s side with a laugh, and Yuuri shoved him back, and what probably should have been a serious conversation dissolved into a wrestling match pretty quickly when Phichit started taking selfies.
(One did end up on Instagram of them laughing, Yuuri grinning victoriously above him, having gotten his phone back.)
Yuuri kept texting v-nikiforov throughout the next few weeks, opening up more and more as ‘Viktor’ did. He sent a few pictures of himself, but mostly the things that he was doing, scenery, weird signs or buildings. v-nikiforov would respond with more pictures of Makkachin, and every so often a picture of Viktor that Yuuri had never seen.
It was their month anniversary (of texting) that Yuuri finally admitted to being a skater, his anxiety ramping up.
k-yuuri: so the gp series starts soon
k-yuuri: how do you feel about your assignments?
v-nikiforov: they should be fine :)
v-nikiforov: giacometti and altin are rising forces but it’s a lot of new names this year :)
k-yuuri: ahh, yeah. like. um. mine.
‘Viktor’ was silent for a few minutes, and Yuuri sat there in anxiety, waiting for what he might say.
v-nikiforov: katsuki yuuri? is that you?
v-nikiforov: you’re amazing!!!!!
Yuuri was frustrated again now, because why weren’t they admitting to not being Viktor? Why weren’t they apologizing and letting him move on with his life!?
k-yuuri: aha, i guess so.
k-yuuri: i’m nervous i guess i’ve never been in such a big competition
v-nikiforov: you’ll be amazing!!!!
k-yuuri: you’ve never seen me skate
v-nikiforov: but i know you. i know how good you’ll be
k-yuuri: this is different, viktor.
k-yuuri: i’ve got really bad anxiety and i can’t handle the crowds half the times, and i get worried about every little thing and i can barely land my jumps in competition. honestly, i’m a mess and i don’t even know how i made it this far. i’m just lucky that i got to train back in hasetsu whenever i wanted because my friends worked at the rink and i got to go whenever i wanted which is the only reason i made it this far and i know that celestino has faith in me but i don’t think i can do it, viktor.
Yuuri was having a breakdown to someone pretending to be Viktor Nikiforov. Yuuri was telling someone on an online dating site catfishing him as his figure skating idol that he didn’t think that he could actually figure skate, like he thought that he might get some advice. He just… trusted v-nikiforov, as weird as it sounded. He was incredibly frustrated that he didn’t know the person behind the act, because he felt like he did. Through all of the anecdotes, and pictures, and everything else…
And Yuuri froze, looking at his messages, before burying his face into his hands. He’d fallen in love with an online dating profile pretending to be Viktor Nikiforov.
Before he had time to even process what he’d realized, ‘Viktor’’s response came through.
v-nikiforov: yuuri, take a deep breath. <3 i don’t know how hard your anxiety is but i think everyone has at least a little, especially in their first major competition. mine was so long ago that that sort of thing really doesn’t faze me any more, but i remember when it did. it’s hard, i know it is, but you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t deserve it. there are so many aspiring figure skaters throughout the world trying to get into this and other competitions, and so clearly you’ve got something that they don’t have, and even if you come in last, you’re still one of few who even made it into the qualifiers.
v-nikiforov: plus, i just watched through a little of a recent performance of yours, and you do deserve this, yuuri. you’re unbelievable! maybe your jumps aren’t perfect, but your step sequences are maybe better than mine, and the emotion you put into your skating is something i wish i could do
v-nikiforov: and, if it makes you feel better?
v-nikiforov: just skate like you’re skating for me :)
v-nikiforov: (and i’ll also send you more pictures of makkachin, because who wouldn’t feel better with more pictures of makkachin)
k-yuuri: thank you, viktor.
k-yuuri: and i’ll never say no to more makkachin pictures :)
Yuuri felt pathetic for smiling, for breathing out, for relaxing, but he did. v-nikiforov somehow knew exactly what to say, and said it exactly as he needed to say it. Before, he had skated with Viktor in mind, but this was different. This wasn’t Viktor. This was v-nikiforov, pretending to be Viktor, and somehow making Yuuri fall in love with him.
Maybe he’d ask who they really were if he qualified for the Grand Prix Final.