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Six Hours Ahead

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YOU WIN! (+300xp)

-Rematch-
-Another Opponent-
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Yuuri smiled at his screen as he won yet another round of his new favourite game; somehow he had managed to convince his parents that it was educational due to the amount of quizzes on maths and science, but he neglected to inform them of the quizzes that also focused on tv shows and games.

-Your opponent has left the game-

Sighing slightly, Yuuri began a round with a new person, waiting patiently as he was connected to someone from the other side of the world. Soon enough the music kicked in and he was quickly selecting answers, his responses become more rapid as he noticed how fast the other player was and that he only had an advantage of 2 points over them.

As the final question appeared on the screen, Yuuri selected the answer as quickly as he could and smiled as the bar filled up; a feeling of satisfaction tugged at him as he was informed that he had won once again.

A small beep alerted him that he had a new message and with furrowed eyebrows and a feeling of curiosity, he clicked on the icon, confusion flooding him as he stared at the Cyrillic that greeted him.

 

Blinking a couple times, he stared at the indecipherable lettering on his screen and typed a reply nervously.

The three dots appeared in the corner of the screen as he waited for a response, realising that if he didn't understand the other player, they probably didn't understand him either.

 

Yuuri chuckled slightly and shook his head, he didn't want them to simply repeat what they had asked, he was trying to explain that he didn't know what it meant.

The language barrier between the two of them was blindingly obvious and when the dots did not reappear, the Japanese boy assumed that the other person had given up and went back to the game.

However, a moment later he received a new message and was no longer greeted in the unfamiliar language.

 

Yuuri smiled slightly, glad that the two of them shared a common language, although he was still not entirely fluent yet.

 

Although Yuuri was enjoying the conversation and was feeling intrigued, his curiosity took over and he needed to know the reason for it being initiated in the first place.

 

He cringed slightly at the bluntness of his message but decided he could blame it on his English skills, besides he wanted to know why he had began a conversation with him.

 

Within seconds a box appeared on the screen asking him to accept the request and he pressed the tick, instantly starting the game. It was just as intense as it had been previously, and Yuuri couldn't help but feel competitive as he tried to win as when seeing the closeness of their scores.

 

Unsurprisingly, he won once again - after all he was a high level on the particular subject that had been chosen and he was now on a streak of 11 wins; as was expected, 'Makka' had began to type a response and Yuuri tapped his chin in anticipation, ignoring the slight smirk on his face.

 

Yuuri chuckled softly; he had been told time and time again that he should never tell strangers his name, but surely sharing his first name would not do anything.

 

 

Yuuri waited patiently for a response that didn't come, the dots no longer appeared and he sighed as he closed the app, figuring that they were busy and would reply later.

Curiosity began to get the better of him as his mind wandered; he tried to think of names that could be shortened to Niki but he was left empty handed and gave up, deciding that he would just wait until he replied.

An incessant buzzing began to come from his phone and he smiled as Daichi's face appeared on his screen; with a quick swipe of his finger he answered the call and pressed his phone to his ear.

"Hi Yuuri!" He could almost picture the grin on his face as he spoke, causing the younger boy to feel a warmth in his chest as his heart fluttered.

"Hello Daichi! How are you?" Laying backwards on his bed, he got himself more comfortable, adjusting the pillow beneath him slightly as he rested his elbow on it.

"I'm great! I just wanted to see how my favourite little Yuuri-chan is doing."

A large grin broke out on Yuuri's face and he could feel the slight blush in his cheeks; the two of them had been dating for months but he was still flustered at any sort of affection, even the smallest kind.

"I'm better now that you called, but I'm only a couple inches shorter than you! I'm not that little!" He giggled, knowing that it was only a form of endearment and he didn't mind the teasing that his boyfriend gave him for his height.

"You're smaller than me, therefore you're little; besides it's adorable!"

"Ughhh stop!" He buried his face in his hands and blushed furiously, despite the fact that his boyfriend had no way of seeing his actions.

"You're so cute when you're embarrassed Yuuri." He chuckled, affection laced heavily in his voice and it only caused the brunette's cheeks to flame up even more as the heat rushed to them.

"Okay, okay, lets change the subject." he whined, shaking his head; he had never been particularly good at accepting compliments or being teased and this was no exception.

"Anything for you. So what have you been up to?"

"Nothing really, just been playing on my phone for the last hour or so, how about you?" Yuuri ran a hand through his hair as he spoke, trying to flatten down the messy parts as he spotted them in a nearby mirror. 

"Sounds fun, and I've just been doing my chemistry homework for tomorrow, I only just finished." There was an audible sigh on the other end of the line and Yuuri glanced at the clock, realising that it must have taken him several hours.

"At least it's over now!" He smiled encouragingly, knowing how stressful it could be to spend so long on homework, "Just think about your final grade."

"Yeah, it'll be worth it in the end." He chuckled and Yuuri hummed in agreement as a small yawn escaped his lips.

"Tired?" Daichi asked sweetly, clearly noticing his boyfriend's yawn and Yuuri admitted that he was, hoping that it didn't come across as rude.

"You get some sleep then, I'll see you tomorrow at school!"

After saying goodbye to each other, the call ended and Yuuri lazily changed into his pyjamas before falling back on his bed and tightly wrapping himself in his covers.

Deciding to check if Niki replied yet, he retrieved his phone, selecting the app and waiting for it to load; he couldn't help but feel slightly disappointed when there wasn't a message waiting for him. Nevertheless, he simply shook it off, knowing that it was silly and laid his head on his pillow, feeling the tiredness begin to pull at him.

Chapter Text

Yuuri groaned as his obnoxiously loud phone rudely awoke him from his peaceful sleep, he languidly reached out for it, squinting at the bright screen as he clicked the snooze button.

"Ten more minutes." He mumbled to himself, hiding his face in his soft pillow.

The minutes passed incredibly quickly and he was once again refused the liberty of sleeping in, his phone blaring loudly to prevent him from being late for school.

With a long sigh, he silenced the alarm and peeled the thick duvet away from himself, shivering slightly as he was exposed to the coldness of his room at such an early hour.

He welcomed the heat that came from the jets of water as he stepped into the shower, relishing in the way it sent waves of warmth through his body. Cringing slightly, he realised that he was running behind due to his inability to get out of bed at the right time and had the fastest shower of his life.

Within minutes he was dry and changed and tucked his phone into his trouser pocket, throwing his school blazer on as he descended the stairs and grabbed some breakfast from the kitchen.

"Good morning Yuuri." His mother greeted him, rubbing her eyes wth a tired smile as he nodded, his mouth full of food.

Glancing at his watch moments later, his eyes widened and he quickly threw his backpack over his shoulders and laced his shoes up. After yelling a goodbye, he pulled the door open and hastily made his way down the street and to his school's building; maybe he was being too cautious with his time and had overestimated how late he actually was, but he shrugged, deciding that being early was a better alternative.

Not even twenty minutes later he walked through the gates, making his way to the main area to wait for his first lesson to begin. Pulling out his phone, he saw that he still had a while until the bell was due to ring and he found an empty chair in the corner of the room; a smile tugged at his lips as he saw that he actually did have a message waiting for him this time, as well as a tweet from his favourite figure skater.

 

Yuuri wasn't entirely sure where Niki was from, but the Cyrillic had seemed Russian so he quickly googled the time zone difference. The amount of options for the single country was overwhelming and he and decided that for now St Petersburg was a good approximation.

6 hours.

That meant that it was almost 2am for them and so he sent a brief message for him to read once he woke up.

 

"Yuuri!" His eyes instantly whipped up at the mention of his name, and he grinned as he spotted the taller brunette smiling at him from across the room.

"Daichi!" He rose to his feet, slipping his phone back into his pocket and headed over, wrapping his arms around the other boy.

"Good morning." He chuckled, ruffling Yuuri's hair slightly before returning the hug, "Are you well-rested now?"

Nodding, Yuuri hummed in response before giving one last squeeze and pulling away, aware of the other students watching them.

"I'm glad." He smiled, placing a gentle kiss to his forehead and Yuuri began to blush, pulling at the sleeves of his blazer as Daichi laughed softly.

After a few moments of discussing random things and enjoying each other's company, the bell rang and the two of them reluctantly parted ways, heading to their classes after promising to meet at lunch in a few hours.

-

The day dragged as usual - even after a lunch filled with laughter and flirting - and Yuuri found himself in the final lesson of the day, staring absentmindedly out of window.

A small buzz came from his pocket and he mentally cursed himself for not turning it on 'do not disturb' mode; luckily no one had noticed the sound as they were all scribbling notes while the teacher spoke.

Sitting at the back of the classroom had not been ideal for Yuuri's eyesight, however at this moment he found that his seat gave him an advantage as he pulled his phone from his pocket and discreetly checked the screen.

A small smile found its way onto his face as he saw the familiar icon from his new favourite app, and the message that was printed alongside it.

 

Despite everyone's hate for school, Yuuri couldn't particularly say he agreed - sure, it could be annoying to have to wake up early and sit through long hours of lessons, but he found most of the subjects interesting and loved the fact that he was developing his knowledge of the world daily.

"Katsuki."

Yuuri froze as his name was called and he was frightened that he had been caught; he really didn't want his phone to be confistacted.

"Yes, sir?" He asked politely, quickly hiding his phone from sight and hoping that it hadn't been seen.

"Come up and solve this equation for x please." He held out the pen in an outstretched arm and Yuuri slowly rose from his seat and made his way to the front of the classroom. Unfortunately, he hadn't been listening for the last ten minutes and was missing the notes from his book; fortunately, it was a simple enough equation and he was able to solve it once he began working on it on the large board.

"Well done." He smiled, glancing at the answer which had been underlined and with a curt nod, Yuuri returned to his seat, sighing in relief.

Feeling slightly more confident now that he knew that the teacher had in fact not been able to see his phone, he dared to pull it out once again and unlock the device. He selected the message notification and carefully typed a response, glancing up every few seconds to make sure no one was watching.

It took less than a minute to receive a response and he eagerly opened it with a small smile.

 

 

The maths notes on the board seemed incredibly boring in comparison to his phone and he pouted as he opened his book and finally began to write; he would much rather continue his conversation with Niki, but he knew that his grades would suffer if he didn't put the effort in and finally tuned into what the teacher was saying.

-

Once Yuuri arrived home from school he was instantly intercepted by a very busy looking Hiroko, who asked him to do several chores to help with the inn.

After hurriedly changing out of his uniform and into something more comfortable, he headed downstairs and grabbed a tray of food, handing the plates out to happy customers.

"Yuuri, take these to the springs please!" His mother handed him a large pile of towels and ushered him out of the room quickly, clearly overrun with the amount of people staying in the inn.

"Yes mama." He nodded, smiling at the guests as he laid towels beside them around the onsen.

"Mari!" Yuuri called up the stairs, balancing empty dishes on his arms, wondering where on Earth his sister was in the middle of the commotion.

"Mari is unwell, now come on Yuuri!" Toshiya gently tugged him away from the stairs and took a few bowls from him as they headed to the kitchen.

"Why is it so busy anyway?" Yuuri questioned, overwhelmed by the amount of guests and how rushed everything seemed.

"The other inn is closed because the managers went to visit their family, so all of their guests are now staying here." He explained quickly, washing the dishes in the sink and handing them to his son to dry and put back in the cupboard.

"Oh, okay." Yuuri nodded and continued to assist his father, wanting to be as helpful as possible.

"Yuuri!" His mother called several minutes later and he was dismissed from the room to be assigned a new chore.

"Please go and clear the banquet room and set out the spare futons; we need extra space for the new guests."

"Of course, mama." He smiled and hurried to begin moving boxes from the room, groaning slightly at the weight of them but managing nevertheless.

"Knock, knock." There was a tap on the shōji and Yuuri spun around to come face to face with a certain brunette.

"Daichi, hi!" He grinned, placing the box currently in his hands on the floor before pulling the other boy into a hug.

"You look very busy, is this a bad time?" He asked, noticing the slight stress in his brown eyes as he rubbed circles into his back.

"Yes I'm very busy, but it's never a bad time to see you." He pulled away slightly so that they could make eye contact before pressing his head against his chest and taking a deep breath to try and release some of the stress that had built up since he got home.

"Let me help." He offered, pulling away from the hug and picking up a box with a helpful smile.

"Thank you so much." Yuuri ran a hand through his hair with a sigh of relief as the pile began to decrease in size.

"Can you give me a hand with this?" He questioned hopefully, gesturing to the futon once the room was cleared.

"Of course."

Soon enough they had laid out several futons and made the room look more presentable, and so the two of them gave a satisfied nod before heading into Yuuri's room to avoid the hectic atmosphere downstairs.

"I'm exhausted." Yuuri sighed as he flopped onto the bed, feeling his feet tingling slightly from the excessive running around he had been doing in the inn.

"I can tell." Daichi chuckled as he sat crossed legged beside him, rubbing his fingers through Yuuri's messy hair to try and help him relax.

He let out a soft hum as he closed his eyes, enjoying the feeling of gentle fingers against his scalp.

"Thank you."

"Anytime." He whispered soothingly as he smiled fondly at the younger boy.

Suddenly Yuuri's phone buzzed in his pocket and his eyes opened as he retrieved it and quickly swiped the screen.

 

"Who's that?" Daichi asked, laying beside Yuuri and peering at his screen questioningly.

"Just my friend - well more like acquaintance really." He smiled reassuringly, wrapping an arm around his boyfriend while typing with his free hand.

 Daichi didn't seem too convinced but he trusted Yuuri and buried his head on his shoulder, beginning to trace shapes on his chest with his index finger.

 

"Yuuri." Daichi whined, pouting at his lack of attention and he sent a quick message before returning his attention to the boy in front of him.

 

A soft giggle escaped Yuuri's lips as his boyfriend brushed his face against a sensitive part of his neck, tickling him slightly.

The sound was like music to his ears and he began to laugh too, using his fingertips to tickle him even more and the two of them were soon in fits of giggles and struggling to breathe.

"Yuuri!" His mother's voice called from downstairs and Daichi finally pulled away reluctantly and flattened down Yuuri's messy hair with a chuckle.

"I'll be back soon." He promised, placing a kiss to the top of his head as he rose to his feet before turning towards the door reluctantly.

Chapter Text

After several more hours of being rushed off his feet with chores, Yuuri was finally given permission to go to bed and he tiredly pulled on his pjyamas and climbed into his cosy bed with a sigh of relief.

Surely enough, there was a message waiting for him and he couldn't deny the smile that appeared on his face as he unlocked his phone.

Yuuri tapped his chin with his finger, wanting to learn more about Nikki and avoid small talk; he wasn't sure whether or not he was being flirty or just friendly with his last message but he brushed it off, deciding it was more than likely the latter.

 

 

 

There was a trace of a smile playing on his lips as he closed his eyes and allowed himself to fall asleep, despite his mind still being occupied by hundreds of questions about the Russian boy.


 

"Yuuri, you didn't stay up all night on that new game did you?" Daichi asked disapprovingly as the two of them entered the school, noticing the dark bags under his eyes.

Placing a hand over his mouth as a long yawn escaped his lips, Yuuri shook his head and shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly, "Nope, I'm just sleepy from all those chores yesterday."

Daichi's stare softened and a fond smile made it's way to his lips, loving how adorable Yuuri was when he was sleepy, despite the fact that they had a full day of lessons ahead of them.

"Hey, Yuuri?" He began, licking his lips as he waited for a response from the shorter brunette.

"Yeah?" His brown eyes glistened slightly as he looked up to meet his gaze and it melted his heart.

"Wanna do something this weekend?" He asked hopefully, intertwining their hands as they made their way through the quiet corridor.

"Sure!" His eyes lit up and his mouth stretched into an excited smile, "Like what?"

"I'm not sure, but I think it's time I took you on another date." He tapped his nose affectionately with his index finger, chuckling at the way it scrunched up in response.

"You don't have to." Yuuri blushed, staring at his feet as they walked and Daichi squeezed his hand gently.

"I want to."

"Well, I'd love to." Yuuri nodded at him, gently swinging their hands as he adjusted his heavy backpack on his shoulder.

"Great, Friday then?" He questioned, tapping his chin in thought while trying to come up with an idea for a date.

"Yeah, Friday." He confirmed and leaned closer to him, a smile tugging at his lips.


 

Yuuri glanced around the class as he pulled his phone from his pocket, relieved when he noticed that everyone was distracted, copying from textbooks and the teacher was typing something on the computer.

If he was honest, Yuuri didn't mind whether it was important or not - he was planning on replying regardless - but he knew that realistically he should be paying attention to the work in front of him.

 

With his eyebrows pulled slightly together, he returned his phone to his pocket and continued to write out the physics formulas in front of him.

"Yuuri? Can you help me with this?" A voice grabbed his attention and he looked up to meet the grey eyes of someone slightly familiar.

"Sure." He smiled, nodding his head to motion towards the empty chair beside him and the tanned boy sheepishly took it.

"Phichit, right? You're new?"

His eyes widened slightly and he nodded shyly, "Yeah, my dad got a job here so we had to move."

"Oh right, well it's nice to meet you." He offered his hand and a warm smile, which the Thai boy took appreciatively, returning the gesture.

"You too."

"So, what did you need help with?" He asked, remembering the reason the two had started their conversation in the first place.

"Oh right, yeah," he chuckled, brushing his fringe away from his eyes as he stared at the textbook, bringing a finger up onto the page to show him. "I don't understand this; what does directly proportional mean?"

His features were downcast as he stared at the array of numbers and symbols that scattered the page, clearly confused.

"Oh, it's easier than it sounds," Yuuri reassured him, "it's a relationship between two variables in which one is a constant multiple of the other."

"Ummm." Phichit stared at him vacantly for a second, not quite sure what it meant, but Yuuri quickly flipped his notebook to a fresh page, beginning to scribble numbers down to help him explain his point.

"What's the fish for?" He questioned, tapping the page with the end of his pencil.

"Fish?" He asked with furrowed eyebrows, his glasses along down his nose slightly.

"Yeah, that fish there." He drew a faint circle around the symbol and Yuuri laughed softly, shaking his head.

"That's not a fish, it's a symbol that represents direct proportion."

"Looks like a fish to me." He shrugged, smiling slightly and beginning to relax around the Japanese boy.

"I don't know what kind of fish you've been eating." He joked, before continuing to explain it to him, checking if he was still following every minute or so.

After ten minutes of repeating himself and patiently waiting for him to understand, Phichit's eyes widened and it finally clicked.

"So, I do this?" He asked, copying out the example from the textbook and working through it, looking hopefully at Yuuri once he had produced an answer.

"Yep." He nodded, checking against his own notes and Phichit grinned happily.

"Thank you!"

"Anytime."

Phichit didn't return to his original seat after that and the two of them continued to work through the task in a comfortable silence.

The clock was ticking annoyingly loudly in the silent room and Yuuri glanced up at it every minute or so, wanting the lesson to end so he could ease the small ache of hunger pulling at his stomach.

After what seemed an eternity, the shrill ringing of the bell finally flooded into the classroom and he threw his books into his backpack, quickly rising to his feet.

"Class dismissed." The teacher waved a hand, not tearing her gaze from the computer in front of her and Yuuri was about to make his way to the door when he thought of something.

Phichit seemed to be in no hurry to get to the cafeteria and he wondered if the boy had made many friends yet; really it would be surprisingly if he hadn't, he seemed very easy to talk to.

"Hey, wanna eat lunch with me today?" He asked sweetly, before correcting himself, "Well, me and Daichi and a few of our friends."

"Really? You wouldn't mind?" He asked shyly, pulling his bag over his shoulders.

"Yeah, come on." He nudged his shoulder and the two of them headed to the lunch hall, eager to get some food down their throats.

"Yuuri!" A voice called him as soon as he had a plate in his hands and he spotted the older boy waving at him from across the hall, turning around to make sure his new friend was still following him, he made his way towards to table happily.

"This is Phichit." He introduced them as he took his seat beside Daichi and everyone welcomed him warmly, smiles on their faces and Phichit grinned in response.

"Two new friends in two days, that's impressive." Daichi nudged him under the table with a smirk and Yuuri rolled his eyes with a giggle.

"What can I say? Apparently people find me friendly."

"Seems that way." He smiled, although it didn't fully reach his eyes but Yuuri brushed it off, thinking that he was just imagining it.

Daichi shuffled closer to him slightly under the table and interlinked their hands, squeezing gently as the two of them joined in the conversation everyone was having.

Phichit still looked as though he was feeling out of place, so Yuuri offered him an encouraging smile and softly motioned his head as a signal to join in, steering the conversation to topics he could engage in.

Everyone seemed to warm to Phichit almost instantly and he quickly got into the flow of everything and Yuuri couldn't help but smile when he saw how relaxed the new boy was becoming.


Yuuri gently threw his phone onto his bed and began to unbutton his school shirt, sighing as the uncomfortable fabric was dropped into his wash basket and was replaced by a soft tshirt. He chuckled slightly as he noticed the way his hair was sticking up in different directions and tried to pat it down, but his attempts were of no avail.

A loud buzz grabbed his attention and he flopped onto his bed, hastily unlocking the device and selecting the new message with a smile.

 

 Yuuri's smile faltered and his heart dropped slightly, he knew that he had a habit of getting too attached to people too quickly, but this hurt more than he expected. He wasn't even sure why it bothered him so much, after all they didn't know each other and Niki was just a random person he met online but he couldn't ignore the frown that was tugging at his lips.

Yuuri was waiting for Niki to say something, anything, to get the conversation flowing, but the three dots didn't appear and he began to tap his fingers against his phone impatiently. He was truly curious about the Russian boy, he found himself drawn in by him, despite only having the extremely basic knowledge that he shared a love for ice skating.

After what seemed like an eternity, his phone finally beeped once again and a small smile tugged the edges of his mouth.

 

 

The two of them talked for several hours, learning little quirks about their way of texting, as well as random things that would have otherwise remained unknown - for example, Yuuri learnt that Niki had once borrowed (confiscated) his coach's hat and received the silent treatment for almost five hours - much to the amusement of his rinkmates.

As the clock on his bedside table ticked and the nighttime approached, Yuuri found that his jaw was beginning to ache from smiling and laughing so much; not to mention the way his chest felt lighter and he found himself replying as quickly as he could, wanting to talk for as long as possible.

When his mother finally knocked on his door to tell him that he needed to sleep, he pouted at his phone, reluctantly typing out a goodbye message to his new Russian friend and closed the app, returning to his home screen.

His eyebrows furrowed slightly as he saw that his ordinary messaging app had a large red icon printed over it, informing him that he had several unread texts. Yuuri bit his lip slightly as he glanced at the top of his screen, letting out a small sigh as realised that he'd left his phone on do not disturb mode, and had effectively been ignoring someone for the last six hours by accident.

Tapping the app, he winced as he saw that it was his boyfriend who he had not replied to; with a heavy heart, he selected the messages and frowned as he scanned over them.

Guilt instantly tugged at him and he quickly responded with an apology, hoping that he hadn't upset Daichi because that was that last thing he wanted.

With a long exhale, he rubbed a hand down his face and yawned slightly, feeling the tiredness begin to set in as he glanced at his clock; he wasn't sure how it was almost 11pm, or how the time had flown by so quickly, but he did know that he didn't mind - talking to Niki was worth it. It was even worth the fatigue he felt in the morning after staying up even later just to continue their conversation, but he knew that his mother would scold him and he loved her too much to ignore her instruction to head to bed.

Unsurprisingly, his phone beeped as he pulled the duvet over him, except this time it was to display a message from his boyfriend rather than the Russian. He smiled fondly as the name popped up on his screen and reflexively swiped his thumb across it to create a reply once again.

Yuuri worried his lip, knowing that he was neglecting to mention the fact that he had not actually played a single quiz that night; he had in fact spent the entire time he'd been home from school messaging Niki. It wasn't wrong to not tell him though was it? After all, Daichi knew about Niki, he had been there when Yuuri was talking to him the other night, so it wasn't as though he was doing something he shouldn't be - they were just friends. That's all.

Shaking his head, he decided that he was overthinking it and dismissed the thought; Daichi was his boyfriend and he trusted Yuuri for a reason, he had nothing to worry about anyway. It wasn't as though he was going to fall in love with some random person he met online, not while he was already in a loving relationship with someone who meant the world to him - he didn't even know Niki's real name for heaven's sake!

Pushing the thoughts aside, he focused entirely on the conversation in front of him, grinning as he pictured the boy on the other side of the phone who he got to see every day.

Daichi wasn't going anywhere.

 

Chapter Text

"Yuuri?"

With a start, the brown eyed boy quickly looked up from his physics textbook, once again coming face to face with the younger Thai boy he had recently declared his new friend.

"Yeah?" He offered a warm smile and shifted in his seat as he fiddled with the pen in his hand absentmindedly, spinning it between his fingers for something to do.

"There's that project that's coming up soon, do you want to be partners?" He asked sheepishly, his grey eyes glistening with hope and Yuuri couldn't help but smile at his shyness - usually Yuuri was the one in Phichit's position, it was quite refreshing to be on the receiving end of the request.

"Of course!" He nodded reassuringly, motioning for him to sit next to him as he had done the previous day; he wasn't sure why he hadn't just sat there in the first place, but he assumed it was in case the teacher noticed - not that she would, considering that she never looked up from her computer for more than two minutes at a time.

"Great, thank you!" Phichit grinned happily, placing his book on the table and hopping onto the empty wooden stool beside Yuuri.

"I think she's giving out the assignments at the end of the lesson, so do you want to come over to mine later and we can discuss it? Or we can just hang out?" He suggested unsurely, a hint of hesitance laced in his tone but Yuuri simply nodded quickly, dismissing any doubts that Phichit was having.

"Sure! I'll give you my number, just text me later when you want me to come over." Yuuri scribbled the digits onto a blank page in his exercise book, before quietly tearing it and handing it to the other boy who offered a brief nod as he slipped it into his pocket, assuring him that he would.

The two of them smiled at each other before sinking into a comfortable silence, turning their attention to the task which had been halfheartedly written on the board by the professor who looked as though she was about to fall asleep.

Rolling his eyes at her, Yuuri shook his head slightly, silently thanking his parents for letting him be so naturally gifted at the subject to hardly even need her help. Phichit on the other hand, didn't seem to be so lucky and was frowning at the writing in front of him, shooting Yuuri a look and the Japanese boy began to explain it in more detail.

-

The day dragged as usual and Yuuri was exhausted by the time he arrived home; Niki had broken his pattern and did not message Yuuri while he was at school, making the day seem even more bleak than it originally was. He couldn't help but feel a slight twinge of disappointment each time he checked his phone throughout the day and was met by an empty screen. He knew that it was stupid, but he couldn't help it anyway and felt embarrassed at how quickly he had gotten attached to him over the last few days. Yuuri came to the conclusion that it was only due to the fact that they shared a passion for ice skating and he could connect to him on that basis. It made sense; talking to Niki was the only time he could express his feelings on the sport and be himself, knowing that those around him were blissfully unaware of his enthusiasm regarding the ice.

Yuuri knew that he should just tell someone, surely Daichi would be supportive, wouldn't he? After all, he had always encouraged him to try his best at school, so why would ice skating be any different?

Of course he already knew the answer.

Ice skating was not a realistic future for him, he needed a job that would allow him to support his family as the onsen business faded; one that had a steady income that would always be there for him to pay for his bills, pay for his mortgage and pay for his parent's pension fund.

As much as he would love to pursue it and skate until his legs shook and gave out beneath him, he understood that it was not going to happen. Perhaps if the onsen was still thriving with customers he could give it a try, but the reality of the situation was that his family was relying on him and he couldn't let them down.

A buzz from his phone tore him from his thoughts and he unlocked it, noticing that he had received a message from an unknown number.

  

With a brief glance at the time, he assured Phichit that he would be there and received a following text with his address attached moments later.

Unbuttoning his school blazer, he shrugged it off his shoulders and hung it up, doing the same with his shirt and tie before peeling his trousers off and heading to his wardrobe for a change of clothes. It really didn't matter what he wore, he was only going to Phichit's house to work on their physics project, but nevertheless he wanted to look decent incase his parents were home; Yuuri was a firm believer that first impressions were very important and always wanted people to like him, no matter who they were, and regardless of whether or not they would ever see him again.

After less than a minute of consideration, he was pulling a maroon jumper over his head and stepping into a pair of black skinny jeans, nodding at his appearance in the mirror before tapping his phone to check the time.

17:02

Phichit's house was less than fifteen minutes away by foot, so he had at least another ten minutes or so before he needed to set off; sitting on his bed, he crossed his legs and opened up Instagram, scrolling through it without really paying attention to the posts in front of him.

Feeling curious, he tapped on the explore page and searched Phichit's name, smiling when his account showed up. The Thai boy seemed to be very active on the platform, posting at least once every few days - if not every day; the majority of the photos were selfies, closely followed by several photos of his hamsters.

Yuuri tapped on one of them and a small smile tugged at his lips, admiring how cute and small they looked; a soft laugh escaped his lips as he scrolled and stumbled upon a selfie in which Phichit had one sitting on his shoulder, one on his head and another in the palm of his hand.

As he noticed the time had progressed, he quickly rose to his feet and locked his phone before slipping it into his pocket and heading down the stairs.

"Mama, I'm going to a friend's house to work on our physics project; I'll be back in a few hours." He embraced his mother in a brief hug and received a nod before being excused the house, beginning his walk through the slightly chilly streets.

-

The house before him was very large, he had to double check the address in the message before he was certain that he was at the right place. Yu-topia was big, but it was an inn and they accommodated for many people, Phichit's home was definitely not an inn, yet it was the same size, if not larger.

Confident that he was standing outside the right house, he gently knocked on the door and awkwardly shifted on his feet as he waited for it to open. In no more than ten seconds, Phichit was standing in front of him, ushering him inside with a warm smile on his face and Yuuri bowed slightly as he entered his home, immediately removing his shoes and placing them by the door.

"I've set everything up on the dining room table, if that's okay? It's just that I thought we might get distracted if we go upstairs, I have too many temping games." He chuckled and Yuuri nodded in agreement, laughing slightly too; he didn't doubt that if they went in his room they would end up playing on some sort of console all night rather than the project - after all, he had already been neglecting his own homework for the last couple days due to talking to Niki for so long.

"That's fine." He followed Phichit as he walked through the door and into another room, looking around and taking in the tidy and well-decorated interior. There were more flowers in vases than he had ever seen, paintings hanging on every wall he passed and everything seemed to be exactly its rightful place.

(He liked it.)

"So, if I'm honest," Phichit began, rubbing the back of his neck as the two of them entered the dining room, where the table was covered in all sorts of books and equipment - some of which Yuuri had never even seen before, "I have no idea what we're supposed to be doing, so I kind of just grabbed random things from around the house to see if any of them were helpful."

A soft laugh escaped Yuuri's lips as he scanned his eyes over the array of items scattered in front of them, knowing instantly that none of them had anything to do with their assignment.

"I think we should just stick to paper for now." He smiled warmly, a small smirk on his lips at how clueless Phichit was, although he couldn't deny that it was endearing and made him like the Thai boy even more.

"Good idea."

-

After several hours and more energy drinks than Yuuri could count, his phone lit up from where it was sitting on the table and he languidly reached for it; he assumed that it was probably just Mari telling him to come home, but his eyes lit up and he became more alert when he saw that it was actually from Niki.

 

 

Phichit seemed to notice Yuuri's change in mood and looked up from the dull book in front of him, curiosity written across his features.

"Who's that?" He asked politely, although an eyebrow was raised and Yuuri could tell that he really wanted to know.

"Just my friend." He smiled, briefly glancing up from his phone to meet Phichit's gaze before continuing to type.

"It's not Daichi?" He questioned with his eyebrows now pulled slightly together, clearly confused.

"Nope." Yuuri shook his head, not continuing to elaborate because he didn't see the need to, but Phichit just leaned forward on the table with interest in his eyes.

"Oh, is it someone from school?"

"Nope." He repeated, grinning to himself as his phone buzzed once again and he read the new message from Niki.

 

"Oh, okay." He finally seemed to drop it and leaned back in his chair, running a hand through his hair and stretching his arms above his head with a small groan of satisfaction.

The two of them remained silent for a while, the only noise coming from Phichit double tapping his screen every so often and Yuuri's soft giggles when Niki said something particularly funny.

He could feel Phichit's eyes glancing at him frequently and he tried to ignore it; he could tell that he wanted to say something, but every time he opened his mouth, he closed it again and averted his attention back to his phone.

After ten minutes of the same thing, Yuuri placed his phone on the table and looked up at Phichit, waiting for him to notice and return the gesture.

"What is it?" He asked simply, wanting to know what was on the tip of the other boy's tongue.

"What?" He questioned, feigning confusion as he met Yuuri's gaze with furrowed eyebrows.

"You keep looking at me."

"Oh." Phichit licked his lips, not even attempting to deny it and Yuuri thought that this was going to be a lot easier than he thought, "It's nothing, honestly."

Or not.

Rolling his eyes, Yuuri once again repeated himself, seemingly not in the mood to drop the topic in the same way that Phichit was.

"Okay, well, don't get mad?" He asked sheepishly, looking up at Yuuri through his thick eyelashes and the Japanese boy nodded apprehensively.

"I know it's really none of my business, but should you really be texting people when you're dating Daichi - not that you can't talk to other people! I just mean, the way you keep giggling at your phone, it doesn't seem very friendly." Phichit ran a hand through his hair nervously as he waited for Yuuri's response, clearly unsure of how he would react to his observations.

"Niki is just a friend. I promise." He wasn't sure why he felt to need to explain himself to Phichit, but he didn't want his newest friend to think of him negatively, especially when he really was infatuated with Daichi, "Besides, Daichi knows about him and he's fine with it."

Phichit's gaze softened and he seemed to look slightly relieved at this information and offered Yuuri a smile, "Oh right, I'm sorry for thinking, you know..."

"Don't worry about it." Yuuri reassured him, his lips upturning slightly before he returned his attention to his phone, where Niki was currently reciting a story about the time he failed a maths exam because he had misread perimeter as 'peri meter'; needless to say he was more than a little confused at this new type of scale.

An amused laugh escaped his lips, and he had to cover his mouth to stop the juice he was drinking from ending up on the table; Phichit asked him what the joke was and he explained it between soft giggles, resulting in the two of them laughing together for a few moments before he finally typed out a reply.

"So, what's Niki like then? That's his name right?" Phichit asked curiously, his eyes wide and glistening with interest as he tucked his phone into the pocket of his jeans.

Yuuri pondered for a moment, despite their game of 'nineteen questions', he still felt as though he didn't really know Niki that well yet; except for the fact that he was a seventeen year old Russian who enjoyed ice skating - and his favourite colour was turquoise.

"I don't know much." Yuuri shrugged, however he already knew that wasn't going to be sufficient enough for Phichit, and at the dissatisfied look on his face, he cleared his throat slightly before adjusting his glasses and continuing, "He's nice though. Well, from what I can tell, at least."

"Does he live close by?" He asked, swirling the straw in his own drink as he stared at Yuuri questioningly.

"Well, if Russia is close by, then yes." He nodded sarcastically, earning a chuckle from Phichit who shook his head in amusement.

"Woah, Russia? How did you even manage that?" He looked slightly bemused, but also slightly impressed at this new discovery and Yuuri simply shrugged nonchalantly.

"I'm not entirely sure."

Phichit nodded, tapping his fingers on the table as he thought of something else to say; Yuuri had once again fixed his eyes back onto his screen and was typing with a smile tugging at his lips.

"Do you have a photo?" He asked curiously, sitting up straighter as he realised he had found a good question to ask afterall.

"I'm sorry?" Yuuri looked over the rim of his glasses, either not paying attention to what he had been asked, or needing clarification as to what Phichit had said.

"A photo? Of Niki?" He repeated, his eyebrows raised and expectant, because surely  he would have a photo of the person he's been talking to for the last few days, right?

"Oh, erm no." Yuuri admitted, licking his lips and adjusting his glasses on the bridge of his nose, "His profile picture is just of a poodle."

A small laugh escaped Phichit's lips and his eyes glistened slightly with mirth; Yuuri ran a hand through his hair and rested his chin on his hand.

"It's a cute poodle though!" He insisted, hastily tapping on Niki's profile to show him the photo and prove his claim. As it loaded and the phone was shoved in front of Phichit, his eyes widened slightly before readjusting and he nodded in agreement.

"You're right, as far as poodles go, that's definitely a cute one."

"'As far as poodles go?' What, are you not a dog person or something?" Yuuri's mouth was slightly agape as he stared at Phichit, feeling almost offended at the lack of enthusiasm he had over it.

"Dogs are very cute, don't get me wrong!" Phichit waved his hands slightly, trying to redeem himself from Yuuri's disapproving look, which had not softened in the slightest. "But I prefer hamsters! They're so small and you can hold them in your hands, and they go on their wheels - and their balls! And they're just so cute! Don't even get me started on their cheeks!"

The fondness soon came back as Yuuri listened to his friend, thoroughly enjoying the way his voice raised in pitch and his eyes were full of excitement as he described his love for his pets.

"I have three." Phichit declared proudly after he had finished his speech, pulling his phone out of his pocket - presumably to show Yuuri some photos of them.

"I know." Yuuri placed a hand over his mouth in embarrassment, realising how weird it sounded, because how on earth would he know that Phichit had hamsters?

"You know?" He repeated slowly, looking more perplexed by the second, his movements halted and his phone gripped in his still hand, "How?"

Rubbing the nape of his neck, Yuuri let out an awkward chuckle as his cheeks dusted with a light pink and he couldn't quite bring himself to meet his gaze, "Yeah, I erm, I saw your Instagram. I was curious to see if you had one and I found you and yeah."

 "Oh!" Phichit sounded anything but disapproving as a grin spread across his face and he unlocked his phone, quickly opening the app and tapping the search bar, "Can I follow you?"

Although he never really used it, he couldn't bring himself to deny Phichit's request when he saw his eagerness and he typed out his username, selecting the follow button before following him back on his own device.

"I'm going to tag you in so many memes, you don't know what you've been missing." Phichit assured him and Yuuri wasn't sure whether it would be a blessing or a curse but he decided to indulge him and nodded happily.

Before he could object, he heard the sound of a camera shutter and blinked a few times as he realised that Phichit had not-so-sneakily taken a photo of him; scrunching his eyebrows slightly, he peered over his shoulder to see what he was doing.

"Relax, it's just going on Instagram," he waved a hand dismissively, typing quickly as though it was second nature to him - which it probably was, considering how much he seemed to use his phone. Although reluctant, Yuuri didn't protest as he usually would, after all, he doubted Phichit had many followers and he didn't see the harm in it - besides, it could have been a much worse photo.

With a small smile, Yuuri tapped on the notification as the banner appeared on his screen and double tapped the photo, chuckling slightly at the caption before turning to face Phichit.

 

"Anyway, what were we talking about?" The Thai boy asked as he placed his phone on the table, rubbing his chin in thought; Yuuri simply shrugged, hoping that he had actually forgotten, but suddenly there was a flash of realisation and Phichit grinned, "Oh yeah! We were talking about Niki!"

"Yep." Yuuri said noncommittally, hoping that if he sounded nonchalant Phichit would drop it.

"Have you at least asked him for a photo? Like to see what he looks like?" He questioned, leaning an elbow on the table and giving Yuuri his full attention once again.

He wanted to groan or roll his eyes - or both - but had to force himself to resist the urge; why couldn't he just enjoy the fact that he had someone to talk to about skating? He didn't particularly care what Niki looked like, as long as he was telling the truth about his age and who he was, he didn't see why it mattered. Admittedly, he was frightened that if he did ask it would scare him away, the last thing he wanted was to make him uncomfortable; they had only met a few days ago so it was more than understandable that Niki had not shown him his face yet - maybe if it had been years and he still didn't know, then it could be something to worry about, but definitely not now.

"Nope." He shrugged, hoping that Phichit wouldn't make him elaborate.

"It's weird though, I mean, who uses a dog as their profile picture?"

"To be fair, my photo is of a cherry blossom, so it wouldn't exactly be fair if I knew what he looked like without sharing the same privilege." He explained, nodding to himself and knowing that it was reasonable; besides, he technically didn't know whether or not to fully trust Niki yet - for all he knew he could be a fifty year old man and he would prefer to keep his own identity safe until further notice.

"Aren't you curious?" Phichit pressed, clearly not planning on dropping it anytime soon and Yuuri simply shifted in his seat, getting more comfortable as he responded.

"I guess, maybe a little," he paused, licking his lips and pushing his fringe away from his eyes, "but curiosity killed the cat."

"Yeah, but satisfaction brought it back." Phichit smirked, waving his straw in Yuuri's direction when a small beep interrupted them.

"I bet he's hot." Phichit murmured, his eyes now fixated on Yuuri's phone, which was currently lit up with yet another incoming message.

"Daichi, remember?" Yuuri reminded him, a small blush rising on his cheeks, "I have a boyfriend - a very hot boyfriend, might I add."

"Then can I call dibs?" He smirked, snatching Yuuri's phone from the table and unlocking it with ease - apparently he didn't have the most difficult passcode.

"What are you doing?" Yuuri asked hesitantly, moving towards Phichit to see over his shoulder.

(And evaluate the damage control he would need to do once he was finished.)

"I think you've scared him off." Yuuri observed, after several minutes passed and he was yet to receive a reply; he rubbed the side of his face with a long cringe and slipped his phone into his pocket.

For a reason he couldn't quite place, he didn't feel particularly comfortable with Phichit 'calling dibs' on his new friend; maybe he was just protective and wanted to keep his friendship to himself - after all, he had finally found someone to share his passion with.

Yeah, that was all.

Chapter Text

"Yu-chan, are you ready?"

Yuuri was pulled from his mindless scrolling through Instagram by a gentle knock on the door, and he turned around to see his mother poking her head into his room.

"Ready for what, mama?" He questioned, his tone sprinkled with confusion as he adjusted his glasses; he wasn't entirely sure what she was talking about.

Dinner, maybe?

Helping out around the onsen?

Finishing his homework?

"I thought you said Daichi was taking you on a date?"

Oh.

Of course, it was Friday!

"Uhhh yes, he is! I was just about to get changed!" Yuuri quickly rose from his bed, phone falling to the floor as he ran to his wardrobe and began to frantically search for something to wear; how had he forgotten?

"You forgot, didn't you?" His mother asked with a hint of a smile as she leaned against the door frame, clearly amused by her son's forgetfulness.

(Yuuri didn't think it was amusing at all.)

"Of course not!" He lied with a nervous chuckle, shooting her a large grin over his shoulder as he pulled a pair of jeans from his wardrobe.

"Not those ones sweetie." His mother left her spot by the door and gently pulled them from his hand, placing them back on the rail and pulling out a newer black pair instead and laying them over his bent arm, "These are much smarter."

"Oh, thanks." He smiled warmly, briefly wrapping an arm around her before throwing the jeans onto his bed and searching for a t-shirt. Yuuri knew that he had more than enough clothes, but at that moment he felt like might as well have an empty wardrobe; none of his tops screamed at him that they should be worn and he sighed with defeat before reluctantly asking for help.

With a knowing smile, Hiroko motioned for him to move out of the way and she began to flick through his array of clothing naturally; a feeling of fondness tugged at her heart as she noticed that everything was perfectly creaseless and perfectly hung. It took her less than two minutes to assemble an outfit for her son and she laid it on his bed before leaving the room, telling Yuuri that he was going to be late if he didn't hurry up.

(Not that he didn't already know that.)

Once the door clicked, he hastily pulled his threadbare jumper over his head and threw it in the general direction of his washing basket, not caring where it landed. He didn't even want to check the time as he rushed to tug the plain white shirt over his torso, throwing a navy flannel over the top before dragging his jeans over his long legs.

Overly-conscious of how quickly seven o'clock was approaching, he practically sprinted to the bathroom and swapped his glasses for his contacts, deciding that he wanted to make an effort if it was a date. Biting his lip in uncertainty, Yuuri used his hands to brush back his hair experimentally, shaking his head with a small blush at how different he looked; it wasn't necessarily a bad different, but he knew that his regular hairstyle was safe.

With a nod of finality, he pushed the unused hair gel to the back of the cupboard and ruffled his hair slightly - making a mental note that he needed a haircut soon - before spraying some aftershave on his neck and heading back into his bedroom.

The clock read 18:55 and he cringed at how closely he was cutting it; the fact that Daichi could be early urged him on as he pulled a fresh pair of patterned socks from his wooden drawer and lazily folded them over his ankles, not wanting them to ruin his look once he tied his sneakers.

18:57

Grabbing his phone from the floor, he inspected it for any cracks and sighed with relief as he tucked it into the back pocket of his jeans. His black backpack was laying in the corner of the room and he dragged it onto the bed, beginning to throw random things out of it to make room for his jacket, knowing that it would grow colder as the night went on; he also knew that he could always just ask to borrow Diachi's, but he didn't want to seem unprepared or have his boyfriend cringe at how cliché it would be, so he found his warmest jacket and swiftly stuffed it inside. After shoving his wallet and a beanie into the front pouch, he threw it over his shoulders and mentally double checked he had everything he needed before heading to the door.

18:59

Yuuri gave himself a once-over in his full length mirror, smiling at his appearance before taking a deep breath and running down the stairs to get his shoes on. They easily slipped onto his feet as he dug his heels into them, and he leaned down to hurriedly tie the laces with practised precision.

19:00

There was a rhythmic knock on the door and Yuuri startled slightly at the sound before his mouth stretched into a smile, of course Daichi would be there at exactly seven o'clock.

Yuuri's eyes instantly caught on a burst of pinks and purples within his boyfriend's hands as he opened the door, and he felt his cheeks heat up as his eyes widened slightly in surprise.

"You shouldn't have." Yuuri couldn't ignore the way his heart fluttered at the sight of the bouquet of flowers, or the way his eyes scrunched up as he grinned at the boy opposite; he managed to push down the twang of embarrassment he felt with the way the gesture was causing his cheeks to become to same shade as the flowers in front of him.

"I wanted to." Daichi insisted with a large but soft grin, outstretching his long arm towards Yuuri and nodding for him to take them; the younger boy delicately wrapped his hands around them and disappeared for a moment to ask his mother to place them in a vase.

Returning to the door once again, he leaned on his tiptoes to timidly press a kiss to Dacihi's cheek, blushing furiously as he pulled away and made eye contact.

Yuuri was many things, but one of the most obvious of his traits was that he was easily flustered - which did not go unnoticed by his boyfriend as he chuckled slightly and intertwined their hands, giving a gentle squeeze.

"Thank you for the flowers." Yuuri ran a hand through his hair, pushing his fringe away from his eyes as he noticed the way Daichi was smiling at him in adoration.

"You're welcome, it was my pleasure." He insisted, gently tugging him forward and down the driveway of the inn, Yuuri spotted his car instantly and he smiled at the familiarity of it and the endless opportunities that came with it. Being in the year above meant that Daichi had just turned eighteen, and he had gotten his license as soon as he was able to, much to his delight – and Yuuri’s, as they could travel into the centre of the town with ease and even other nearby villages if they felt like it.

As he usually did, Daichi opened the door for Yuuri with a fond smile and the younger boy returned it as he climbed in, his cheeks burning up once again as his chest twisted happily. The door closed softly and Daichi quickly walked around the car, sliding into his own seat as they both clicked their seatbelts into place and he turned the key to start the ignition. Within seconds the engine was rumbling and they were on their way to-

Yuuri’s eyes widened slightly, realising that he had no idea where they were actually going for their date; he wasn’t sure whether Daichi had neglected to mention it or if he hadn’t been paying attention when he did. Biting his lip slightly in thought, he debated whether or not to ask; if he had been told it would be rude to let him know that he wasn’t listening.

With a shrug, he decided to question their destination and hoped that he could just blame it on his forgetfulness that he was teased about so often. Clearing his throat, he put on his sweetest smile and looked over to the older boy who had his eyes trained solely on the road, humming softly to himself.

“So, where are we going again?”

“It’s a surprise.” He winked, momentarily tearing his gaze from the road to offer him a teasing smile and Yuuri felt relieved that he didn’t know after all – however, he didn’t particularly enjoy surprises and he felt his heart rate increase faintly, but he quickly dismissed any irrational thoughts that tried to claw their way into his mind, knowing that it was just his anxiety trying to make him nervous; he trusted Daichi more than anything.

Yuuri lifted his hand to the radio and switched it on, his lips tugging into a smile as familiar music flooded into the vehicle; it wasn’t as though the silence of the car was uncomfortable, but he knew that he would feel more relaxed if the pressure of thinking of something to say was lessened by it. Daichi knew this and simply smiled, after months of dating he had gotten to know him better, and he understood that Yuuri was not a very outgoing person and sometimes needed something to fall back on to ease his anxiousness; in this case, it was the music.

After fifteen minutes of watching the streets of Hasestu through his window, Yuuri’s leg began to reflexively bounce slightly, still clueless as to where they were heading and his boyfriend caught it on the corner of his eye, a small frown setting on his face.

“We’re almost there, don’t worry.” He reassured him, removing a hand from his gear stick and setting it delicately on Yuuri’s knee, rubbing small circles to try and ease him. Despite his good intentions, Yuuri inhaled sharply at the contact, still flustered by the affection and he hastily turned his attention back to the outside world, distracting himself from the heat in his knee and the way his heart was fluttering.

“O-okay.” He cleared his throat, cringing at the way his voice got caught, but Daichi hardly seemed to notice, returning his hand back to the stick to adjust the gear as they climbed a steeper bank ahead.

True to his word, they arrived at their destination less than five minutes later and a large grin was plastered on Yuuri’s face as they left the car and he looked up at the building in front of them.

Yuuri liked bowling - loved it, in fact; it was the first ever date they went on, and looking at the blue doors brought back the memories from all those months ago when they had entered as friends but left as more than that. He doubted he would ever forget how they had began their relationship in the photo booth when Daichi had asked him out, later admitting that he wanting to be able to capture Yuuri’s iconic blush on paper.

(He still had the photo strip on his wall.)

 “Yuuri?”

He was pulled back to the present by his voice and looked over to see him outstretching his hand, which he took eagerly.

“Sorry, I was lost in thought for a moment.” He apologised bashfully, but Daichi just chuckled and gently squeezed his hand. If he noticed the redness of his cheeks, he didn’t say anything and Yuuri was grateful, he didn’t know how much blushing he could take before his face would burn completely.

“No worries, shall we go in?”

With a nod, Yuuri led them forwards, opening the door and instantly being bombarded by a cacophony of sounds; chatter, laughter, music, and bowling pins being knocked down left, right and centre. Normally, he didn’t enjoy loud places, feeling on edge from them, but bowling was one of the few exceptions, and with his hand interlinked with Daichi’s, he didn’t think twice about heading to the counter.

“Yuuri, let me.” He carefully stood in front of him in the line as they approached the front, offering a polite smile to the staff member who looked terribly bored; Yuuri didn’t blame her, after all she was working on a Friday night. “Hi, I made a reservation online for a seven thirty? It should be under Daichi.”

A reservation? Yuuri thought in confusion; they didn’t make one last time, but then again it seemed busy and maybe they wouldn’t have gotten a lane otherwise, so he shrugged it off and pulled his wallet out of his backpack, turning his attention back to the conversation at hand.

After a moment of typing something on her computer, she printed out a receipt and handed it over, informing them of their lane number and placing a pair of shoes on the counter for each of them. He stared dumbly at Daichi, why hadn’t she charged them? He must have noticed his confusion, because he waved a hand and told Yuuri to put his money away, informing that he had paid in advance and Yuuri worried his lip, uncomfortable with people paying for things for him.

He’d pay for the food, he decided, and took the shoes in his hand after stuffing his wallet back into his bag, following Daichi to their designated lane. The pair quickly removed their shoes and replaced them with the borrowed blue ones, placing their sneakers on the bench beside and entering their names into the small computer screen.

“Are you ready to lose again?” Yuuri teased with a raised eyebrow and a smirk on his lips, wanting to remind his boyfriend of how badly he had been beaten the first and last time they had played.

“Is that fighting talk?” He grinned, a playful glint in his eye and it did things to Yuuri’s already fast-beating heart.

“No, it’s trash talk- erm I-I think?” His confident aura faded into his usual gentle side and Daichi giggled softly at how quickly he could change to being cute all over again, fiddling with the sleeves of his flannel.

After briefly moving his fringe way to place a tender kiss on his forehead, Diachi grabbed a bowling ball and threw it towards to pins, frowning in disappointment when it went straight into the gutter. Ignoring the snort behind him, he used his second try more carefully, concentrating intensely as he threw it – only for it to go into the gutter once again, as he let out a groan of frustration.

Yuuri, however, thought it was the most hilarious thing that had ever happened, and was doubled over on the bench, laughing uncontrollably as his eyes scrunched up in amusement.

“I don’t know if there’s any point in me even trying, I mean, I have no chance against that kind of skill.” He remarked sarcastically, wiping a tear from his eye and gesturing towards to the end of the lane where all the pins were still standing, mocking Daichi and his futile attempts.

“Ha ha, very funny.” He rolled his eyes, jabbing finger between his ribs playfully as Yuuri let out a yelp and pushed him away with a giggle.

“Are you trying to put me off?” He asked accusingly with raised eyebrows, before grabbing his own bowling ball and sending it flying down the wooden flooring, managing to knock over most of the pins. With a satisfied smile, he used his second try to hit a couple more and stuck his tongue out at his boyfriend when he took the lead.

(Although it didn’t take much to beat a score of zero.)

“I wouldn’t get so cocky if I were you, I can still catch up.” He declared determinedly, dramatically stretching his arm across his body, as if it would somehow instantly improve his bowling ability.

(It didn’t.)

After several rounds, Yuuri had pulled ahead considerably, and by the time he was on his final turn, Daichi had turned to dirty tactics, holding Yuuri back as he grabbed a ball and threw it down the lane for him, not even bothering to look because he knew that it was going straight into the gutter.

(But it didn’t.)

“No way.” Yuuri whispered, his mouth agape and his eyes glistening in disbelief; with a puzzled look, Daichi noticed that Yuuri had the biggest grin he had ever seen, and the smugness was radiating from him as he stared at the end of the lane in bewilderment.

Turning slowly, Diachi gasped as he looked at the pins – or lack of pins opposite them.

I can’t believe you got a strike for me.”

-

“Isn’t that Phichit?”

Looking up with a mouth full of food, Yuuri scanned his eyes over the small café in the bowling alley, unsure of where his boyfriend was referring to. A few seconds later, he found the mess of brown hair and nodded with a smile, recognising the Thai boy who seemed to be on his phone.

“I wonder what he’s doing here.” Yuuri wondered thoughtfully, swallowing his mouthful of rice before taking a sip of his soda and glancing around. It didn’t take long for him to see a few other people to appear and greet him with a pat on the back and he slipped his phone away, quickly becoming engrossed in a conversation. As he squinted slightly, he realised that he was with a few of their friends from school and he couldn’t help but smile, glad that they had warmed to him so quickly.

“Oh yeah, a few of the guys from school wanted to do something tonight, it was a last-minute thing.” Daichi explained, seemingly remembering an earlier conversation. Yuuri wasn’t sure whether or not to feel hurt that he hadn’t been invited, they were supposed to be his friends after all.

Daichi seemed to observe his change in mood and quickly assured him that he was invited, but he had told them that the two of them already had plans. Yuuri sighed in relief, nodding in understanding, it made sense that he hadn’t been asked when Daichi had already said they were busy.

Suddenly he made eye contact with Phichit and he younger boy grinned at him from where he was standing, waving enthusiastically before gesturing for the rest of their friends to follow him.

“Oh, erm, we’ve got company.” Yuuri smiled, intertwining his hand with Daichi’s as his eyes became fixed on the group of boys quickly approaching them, ready to prematurely interrupt their date.

“Yuuri!” Phichit wrapped his arms around his neck and hugged him tightly, with a soft chuckle Yuuri hugged him back, patting his back awkwardly, clearly caught off guard by the friendly affection. He felt the grip on his hand tighten faintly and he pushed his friend away with his free hand, offering a kind smile.

“I’m so glad you’re here, I missed you!” Phichit placed himself in the booth beside him and forced Yuuri to shuffle slightly so he could fit in.

“I saw you at school a few hours ago.” Yuuri shook his head in amusement, not used to having a best friend who was this attached to him.

“Yes, exactly; that was hours ago Yu-“

“-We’re kind of in the middle of a date.” Diachi cleared his throat, cutting him off with a fake smile as he moved closer to Yuuri, his irritation bubbling, despite the upturn of his lips.

“Aw, no room for a third person?” He pouted, looking sadly at Yuuri who just shook his head again, a laugh escaping his lips as he nudged him out of the booth and onto his feet.

The other boys were chatting amongst themselves, seemingly uninterested in the couple and Phichit gave his friend a longing look with an outstretched arm towards him, after a moment, he let out a dramatic sigh, dropping his arm and bringing a fist to his chest.

“Goodbye, Yuuri.” He whispered, looking more and more dejected by the second, although the twitching of his mouth showed how much he wanted to smile and Yuuri threw a fry at him.

“You’re unbelievable, get out of here.” He laughed, his eyes shining with entertainment at the how melodramatic he could be. With a nod, Phichit winked at him and returned to his friends, leaving the two of them alone again and they eased into easy conversation, laughing and joking at every other sentence.

Yuuri’s phone buzzed in his pocket and he went to reach it but a hand gripping his wrist stopped him, startled by the contact, he looked up with furrowed eyebrows at Daichi who was wearing a frown.

“Don’t.”

“I’m sorry?” He questioned, completely bewildered by the command, surely he must have misunderstood, why else would he not be allowed to check his phone?

“Don’t check your phone, can’t we just enjoy the date without any distractions?” His previous hard stare had softened immensely and he was now smiling affectionately, lessening his grip from Yuuri’s wrist and he nodded, bringing his hand back onto the table and away from his phone. He had a point, he felt as though he was spending more and more time on the device lately, and the date had been wonderful so far without having it as a distraction.

Nevertheless, he knew that it may not be the best idea to ignore it completely, feeling paranoid that it could be his family and he might miss something important or serious, but the look on Daichi’s face was tender and good-hearted and he couldn’t find it in himself to say no. After all, if something serious had happened, it was more likely that his family would ring him, or send multiple texts, so missing one wouldn’t hurt.

“Thank you.” He delicately took Yuuri’s hand and placed a kiss to the kuckles, beaming at him when his cheeks dusted with pink for the hundredth time and Yuuri shook his head in embarrassment “Have I ever told you how cute you are?”

“Yes, many times.” Yuuri rolled his eyes, not wanting to endure more compliments because it would just worsen his state; luckily, Daichi just hummed and didn’t press, instead resorting to resting his chin in the palm of his hand and staring at him lovingly.

Not wanting to let him study his features for too long, Yuuri coughed and stood up, pulling his backpack over his shoulders as he held out a hand for Daichi to take.

“Want to go to the arcade?” He asked with a knowing smile, remembering how they had spent hours there on their first date and Daichi’s eyes crinkled happily as he nodded, taking his hand and leading them to the connecting arcade beside the bowling alley.

-

“Aw Yuuri, you look so cute!” Diachi exclaimed, waving the photo strip in front of him as he groaned slightly, burying his head in his hands. Despite himself, Yuuri appreciated that he did look cute, but so did his boyfriend; the column of photos made him grin as he stared at them, a warm feeling spreading through his chest and up his neck. Although he was hesitant at first, redoing the photo booth had been a good idea, and he was overjoyed that Daichi had suggested it; at least now he had another photo set to add to his wall.

“This one is my favourite.” Daichi commentated, placing his finger over the photo which showed him placing a kiss to Yuuri’s cheek, while his eyes were wide and his so was his grin. That wasn’t Yuuri’s favourite, he preferred the last photo where they were both laughing together, looking natural and content, but he simply nodded and agreed with him with a gentle hum.

“Should I win you a poodle Yuuri?” Daichi asked, his eyes alight with excitement as he dragged him over to a claw machine and placed his hand on the glass, “Look, wouldn’t that be cool?”

Yuuri did look, and it would be cool, but he also knew that these kind of machines were completely rigged and he had a better chance of climbing into the machine and getting it himself, so he shook his head with a fond smile.

“Nah, that’s okay.”

“But Yuuri, I want to.” He whined, batting his eyelashes at him as he pulled his wallet out and began searching for change.

“You won’t be able to do it, honestly its fine.” He assured him, not wanting the older boy to waste money on an impossible task - although the stuffed poodle did look fluffy, and it would be adorable if he won it for him; it kind of reminded him of the poodle in Niki’s profile picture and a small smile tugged at his lips at the thought.

No.

Yuuri should not be thinking of other people when he was on a date with his boyfriend, especially not other boys.

“Yuuri, do you really have that little faith in me?” Daichi grabbed his attention, faking offence as he held a hand to his heart with a pout.

“Well, you did tell me you could catch up to me in bowling, and you couldn’t follow through on that.” He teased, a playful smirk on his lips as he nudged Daichi with his elbow; he loved how easy this was, how comfortable he was when it came to having fun with him and not having to worry about his reaction; he could almost predict what he would say at this point.

“Ouch, I’m still raw from that loss, no need to rub it in.”

Yuuri was once again reminded of Niki, of how he had said something so similar when he teased him about losing their game-

-“Besides, I got a strike did I not?” He pointed a finger at Yuuri, his eyebrows raised as if he wanted him to acknowledge his achievement and he shook his head.

“Technically, I got a strike, it went onto my score after all.” He shrugged, folding his arms and leaning against the machine; he knew that Daichi was going to try and win the poodle no matter what he said, so he may as well be comfortable while he waited for the inevitable failure.

“True. I still can’t believe I played myself like that.” He sighed, running a hand over his face in regret, much to the amusement of Yuuri who just continued to smirk at him, completely smug with the outcome. “Anyway, I’m going to prove you wrong this time, just watch.”

“If you say so.” He scoffed, running a hand through his hair as he watched Daichi bend down and begin to insert coins into the machine, smiling when music began to play and he gripped the two levers in his hands.

“Are you watching, Katsuki?” He asked, his competitive side coming out and Yuuri nodded, his eyes fixed on the claw dangling mockingly in front of his boyfriend.

“Of course. Win me a poodle.”

“I will.” He assured him, moving the claw forward until it was dangling above the toy and he pressed the button to lower it, holding his breath as it got closer until it finally closed, completely missing it and hitting the toy beside it. It moved to the dropping area and released its empty grip, earning a scoff from an annoyed eighteen year old.

Yuuri couldn’t stop the small snort that escaped his lips, and he quickly placed a hand over his mouth to cover it.

“That was a practise.” Daichi defended, although he knew just as much as Yuuri how rigged it was; nevertheless, that didn’t stop him from wanting to at least try to win it, after all there was nothing stopping them from pretending that there was a chance they would leave with a poodle.

“Whatever you say.” Yuuri winked, gaining a fake glare from his boyfriend as he stuck his tongue out at him childishly.

“Just give me a few more goes, I can do it.” He nodded, knowing that he was lying to himself, but he didn’t really mind; if it meant getting to see Yuuri’s laugh then he would spend all of his change on that damn machine.

(Apparently he wasn't lying though.)

Yuuri watched with wide eyes as the claw actually picked up the poodle on Daichi’s fifth attempt; it was surreal, not once in his sixteen years had he ever actually witnessed something being won from a claw machine, his heart pounded more than it should have when he watched it move towards the drop agonisingly slowly; if it dropped the toy before it made it, he didn’t know what he’d do – probably laugh hysterically.

Despite being completely against all odds, the toy poodle fell down the hole and the two boys stared in disbelief for a moment, blinking a few times as if they weren’t sure it had actually happened. Yuuri was the first to look at Daichi, his jaw hanging open slightly and the older boy met his gaze before the two of them broke into laughter and Yuuri threw himself into his arms.

While his boyfriend was still attached to him, Daichi carefully bent down and retrieved the stuffed animal from the machine, holding it out to Yuuri, who took it gratefully, hugging it to his chest as if was the best thing that had ever happened to him.

“Thank you so much!” He grinned, placing a kiss to his cheek before resting his head against his chest, a blinding smile still plastered on his face.

“You’re very welcome, I knew I could do it.” He chuckled, rubbing circles against Yuuri’s back, feeling the way he shook as he laughed heartily.

“No you didn’t.” he called him out on his lie, pushing away from his chest so that he could meet his gaze, “You’re just as surprised as I am.”

“Shhh, let me have my moment.” He joked, patting his head and running his hands through the soft locks affectionately, earning a soft hum from Yuuri as his eyes fluttered closed, revelling in the feeling.

“What now?” Yuuri asked once they had finally broken contact, glancing at the watch on his wrist and noticing that they still had almost two hours before he had to be home.

“What do you want to do?”

Yuuri was thoughtful for a moment, if he was honest, he wouldn’t have minded just doing something free and relaxed; going bowling and blowing money in an arcade was fun, but it didn’t beat the tranquil atmosphere that came with walking somewhere peaceful, somewhere they could just enjoy each other’s company without any pretences. He turned his attention to the windows by the door, knowing that the time was getting on and it was past nine o’clock now, but it was only the start of September, so it was technically still summer. The sun was extremely low by now, barely visible on the horizon as it was almost completely set, but there was enough light left behind to go somewhere close by without needing to worry about the darkness of the night – besides, Daichi’s car had headlights anyway.

“How about the beach?”

“The beach?” Daichi repeated, confusion laced in his tone as he looked at Yuuri questioningly.

“Yeah, it’s still light enough, and its quiet and I have a spare jacket and I thought it would be nice.” He explained, looking up at Diachi hopefully, but the perplexed look on his face made his heart sink and he quickly began to dismiss the idea, “We don’t have to though! It was just a suggestion, I totally understand if you don’t wa-“

“-the beach sounds lovely.” He cut Yuuri off with a reassuring smile, not wanting him to work himself up and placed a kiss to his temple as he joined their hands and began to head towards the exit.

-

“You’re right, this is nice.” Daichi nodded as he pulled into a parking spot, flicking the engine off as he removed his key and the two of them unfastened their seatbelts.

“Right?”

The sun was long gone now, the only light offered to them was from the moon sitting above them and the array of white stars surrounding it. They climbed out of the car and Daichi opened the boot, pulling out a blanket and folding it over his arm before locking the vehicle and motioning for Yuuri to follow him. He wasn’t sure why he had a blanket in his car, but at that moment he was too grateful for the extra warmth to ask about it and he walked beside him towards to coastline.

“Want to walk for a little while? Or sit?” He asked, wrapping an arm over Yuuri’s shoulder and holding him close, smiling when the younger boy leaned into him and embraced the contact.

“Can we walk? Then we can sit in a little while?” Yuuri suggested, removing his shoes and holding them by the laces, before experimentally wiggling his toes as the cool sand gently rubbed against them.

“Of course.” Daichi nodded, following Yuuri’s actions so that he could feel the sand beneath his feet too.

Yuuri thought that it was strange to be on the beach at night, when the sand was cool rather than warm and the breeze was chilly rather than painfully hot, but he decided that he liked it. Just as he had expected, there was no one else there, just the two of them and he felt content, all of his worries could wait until later because at that moment there was only Daichi, himself and the beach.

He didn’t notice that he was shivering until Daichi pulled him closer and began to rub his arms in an attempt to warm him up, Yuuri pushed away momentarily and instead pulled his backpack down in front of him, ruffling through it to find the thick jacket he had placed inside before he left. He sighed happily at the warmth it provided, wrapping it tighter around himself before returning to his position under Daichi’s arm.

The couple walked for a while before they had to turn around, talking about anything and everything that popped into their mind and as they got closer to the car, they decided to just sit for a while. Yuuri couldn’t help but giggle as they fell onto the sand and Daichi pulled the blanket over the two of them. Yuuri sat between his legs, resting his back against Daichi’s chest as he played with his hair and he closed his eyes, focusing on the sound of his heartbeat as it mixed with the waves lapping calmly on the shore.

Daichi began humming softly, ghosting his fingertips over Yuuri’s scalp and the younger boy nestled closer with a sigh, placing his hand on Daichi’s knee beside him and began rubbing circles into it. When he opened his eyes, he stared out into the ocean where black met black at the horizon, a sprinkle of glistening silvers and whites decorating the surface as the moon shone brightly above.

Yuuri desperately didn’t want the moment to end, everything seemed to be perfect and it felt as though there was nothing that could ruin the moment.

(Until there was.)

Yuuri’s phone buzzed loudly, piercing the undisturbed atmosphere and he groaned as he took it in his hand, knowing that it would most likely be his family asking where he was; the two hours had flown by incredibly quickly.

“Hello, mama?” He greeted after seeing the caller ID and pressing it to his ear.

“Yu-chan, where are you? Don’t you think it’s time you were heading home?” She asked, her tone soft but he knew that if he was any later she would be extremely disappointed; and to him, there was nothing worse than when his mother was disappointed.

“Yeah, I’m on my way home now.” He assured her, nudging Daichi as he unlinked their bodies and pushed himself to his feet, ignoring her question of his location; he doubted she would approve of him being at the beach so late when it was not only dark but also cold.

Although he seemed reluctant, Daichi rose to his feet also and followed Yuuri as he headed to the car park, knowing that the night had to come to and end at some point.

-

“I had a really lovely time tonight, thank you.” Yuuri grinned up at the older boy as they stood by the front door of Yu-topia, swinging their interlinked hands gently between them.

“You’re very welcome, I had a lovely time too.” He nodded, returning a smile that was just as wide and Yuuri blushed, tearing his eyes to stare at where his free hand was fondly holding the stuffed poodle.

Yuuri licked his lips, swaying back on his heels nervously before finally meeting Daichi’s gaze, he leaned on his tip toes and brought his face closer; understanding what he was too nervous to do, Daichi leaned in and closed the rest of the distance, allowing Yuuri to join their lips with a soft kiss.

It lasted only a couple of seconds, but when Yuuri pulled away, his cheeks were burning, but he had the goofiest smile on his face as he placed a hand to his cheek and a giggle escaped his lips.

“Thank you.” He mumbled happily, wrapping his arms around his boyfriend’s waist and giving a tight squeeze before they said their goodbyes and he headed inside. After removing his shoes, he went straight to his room where he took his time to change into his pyjamas and brush his teeth.

As he looked in the mirror to take his contacts out, he noticed that he hadn’t stopped smiling the entire time and his jaw was beginning to ache from it; taking a deep breath, he used his hands to fan his face and he inhaled deeply, trying to ease the fluttering of his heart.

Once he was finally wrapped under his covers, he set an alarm for the morning and placed his phone on his bedside table, deciding to wait until the morning to check his notifications.

When the lights were all out and he was ready to sleep, he snuggled into his pillow, quickly beginning to drift off when he remembered his first kiss and his eyes shot open, his blood running cold in embarrassment.

Why did he say thank you?

Chapter Text

With a long groan, Yuuri turned over on the bed and outstretched his arm, silencing the incessant buzzing of his alarm; it was early - almost too early - but if he wanted to have time to practise on the rink, he knew that he needed to be up and out of the door as soon as he could.

Lazily peeling the duvet from himself, he rose to his feet and rolled his shoulders backwards, feeing the tension melt from them and he smiled sleepily at the sensation. Running a hand through his messy bangs, he pushed them away from his eyes and grabbed a towel before heading into the bathroom to shower.

The heat of the water attacked his skin but he didn’t mind it, it helped to wake him up slightly and he languidly rubbed some shampoo into his hair, before watching it flow down the drain along with the jets of water. Like always, his mind began to wander while he was in the shower, brushing over random thoughts that would otherwise remain untouched; however, the main thing that was going through his head this time were the memories from the night before.

He felt a blush creeping up his neck as he thought about the way he had kissed Daichi, and he adjusted the temperature of the shower and sighed as he was wrapped in a cooler embrace, the heat in his cheeks fading considerably. The night had been perfect, Yuuri thought, grinning to himself as he rubbed strawberry scented soap across his arms, he couldn’t remember the last time he had laughed so much, and he noticed that his jaw was still aching faintly as a result.

(Well, it had been almost perfect.)

His smile faltered as he recalled the moment Daichi had grabbed his wrist, stopping him from using his phone; he couldn’t help the nagging feeling that was telling him he shouldn’t have listened, that he was his own person and could do what he liked – but the look on his face when he had agreed had been one of the warmest things Yuuri had ever witnessed, and Daichi did have a point, the date had gone wonderfully without him using his phone. Shaking his head, he dismissed the thought, it was only one text he missed, or at least it was only one that he was aware he had received; besides, he didn’t stop him when his mother was calling, so nothing bad had happened and he did  have a great time.

Realising that he had been in the shower for far too long, too engrossed in his thoughts to notice, he cut the stream off with a quick turn of the tap and pulled the curtain across, wrapping a warm towel around himself as he headed into his bedroom.

The sun was still hiding beneath the horizon due to the earliness of the day, so he flicked his light on and his room was filled with a soft yellow glow as he began to rub the towel against his dripping head of black hair. Upon deciding that it was dry enough, he inspected it in the mirror, wincing at how dishevelled it looked; no matter how many times he ran his hands through it or tried to flatten it down, it remained tousled and he sighed in defeat before deciding he would just throw a beanie over it before he left.

Heading over to his wardrobe, he pushed the many clothes to the side until he reached his small area he left designated for his ‘gym’ clothes - which were in fact for skating - but of course no one else knew that. Pulling out a pair of black pants and a grey shirt, he lazily changed into them before dragging a warm hoodie over the top, all too familiar with how chilly the walk there could be before he got his body moving properly.  

Reaching into the bottom corner of his wardrobe, Yuuri moved a couple of things from where they had been strategically placed and retrieved his skating bag, double checking that the skates were inside before zipping it up and throwing it over his shoulder. Walking over his bed, he grabbed his phone without bothering to check it and slipped the device into the pocket of his trousers before heading downstairs.

“Good morning.”

A voice startled him and Yuuri turned around to be greeted by his older sister who was wiping tables, preparing the inn for the day ahead; her face was laced with sleep as she rubbed her eyes tiredly, but she managed a weak smile upon seeing her brother.

“Good morning Mari-neesan.” He returned a warm smile before heading into the kitchen to make himself some breakfast, knowing that he needed a lot of energy to keep him going through the long hours at the rink.

“Why are you up so early?” She asked curiously, glancing at the clock on the wall that showed a time which Yuuri was usually in bed for.

“I’m meeting up with friends later, so I’m heading to the gym beforehand.” He lied easily, avoiding her gaze, he knew that it was stupid for him to lie and he felt quite ridiculous doing it, but until he was good enough, he didn’t want anyone to know.

“Oh, alright.” She shrugged, continuing to rub her cloth over the wooden tables and move any glasses that had been left behind from the night before. Suddenly she seemed to have remembered something, and a smirk tugged at her lips as she rested a hand on her hip, turning her attention back to Yuuri.

“How was your date?”

Yuuri quickly turned away from her to hide the pink that he knew would be on his cheeks and rubbed the nape of his neck sheepishly.

“It was okay.” He cleared his throat, shooting her a nonchalant look as he fixed his attention on the food in front of him, trying to seem more collected than he was.

“Just okay? Not amazing?” She teased, a fake pout on her lips as she placed the cloth on the table and took a seat beside her younger sibling instead, “My little Yu-chan deserves only the best.”

Yuuri squirmed as she wrapped an arm around him and began to ruffle his already-messy hair, making it even more dishevelled than usual and he groaned in annoyance, attempting to flatten down all of his fly-aways, much to Mari’s amusement.

“You need a haircut.” She tutted, tugging playfully at the long strands which were flicked out behind his ears.

“I know.” He shrugged her off, pushing her away so that he could just enjoy his meal without being disturbed – but of course she had other ideas.

So, tell me about your date.” She pressed, jabbing a finger in his rib with a giggle and he rolled his eyes, grabbing her hands to stop her and moving away from her childish attack.

“Mari you’re twenty-three, act like it.”

“What, so twenty-three year olds can’t ask their baby brothers about their love life?” She feigned shock, holding her hand over her heart as she stared at Yuuri in mock disbelief, clearly with the intention of bugging him until he caved and told her all about it.

“You’re really annoying, you know that?” He sighed deeply, placing his head on the wooden table and looking up at her through the gaps in his hair, noticing the large smirk on her lips that was now as clear as day.

“I’ve been reliably informed.” She chuckled, brushing the loose hairs away from Yuuri’s eyes so that she had a better view of him, and so that he couldn’t avoid her gaze, “Now just tell me.”

“There’s not much to tell, we just went bowling and then to the arcade.” He smiled, leaving out the fact that they had also gone to the beach; he and Mari were close, but he wasn’t entirely confident she would keep it to herself, and the last thing he needed was an angry Hiroko coming after him.

“How classic. Cute.” She nodded with a knowing smile, her gaze turning slightly more serious as she spoke carefully, “Yuuri?”

“Yeah?” He sat up more, removing his head from its resting place and leaning on his hand instead to give her more attention.

“You’re sixteen now, almost seventeen, even, so you know that it’s okay if you, erm, you know,” She began, looking at him hesitantly as though it was paining her to continue speaking; Yuuri, however, had no idea what she was talking about, “just, be careful alright? Mum and dad were worried when you hadn’t texted them back, and it was late and…”

No.

Yuuri was not having this conversation with his sister.

“Oh my god,” He groaned, hiding his face behind his hands as he became increasingly redder by the second, “Shut up, shut up, shut up. We didn- I didn’t- no. I haven’t even thought about that.”

Yuuri was now completely flustered, willing for the ground to swallow him up so that he could get out of talking to Mari about it, but she just laughed and tried to ease the tension and his embarrassment.

“Okay, okay. I was just saying. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.” She placed a hand on his back, gently patting him with affection before standing up and taking a tray in her hand to continue to collect glasses, “But for the record, I like Daichi.”

“Me too.”

With a nod and a soft smile, Mari got back to work and left Yuuri to finish his breakfast in peace, until it was interrupted as he moved to take his bowl back to the kitchen.

“Vicchan!” Yuuri exclaimed as he was knocked to the floor by an overly eager poodle, only just managing to break his fall with a bent arm, “Shhh, you’ll wake the guests up.”

Running his hands over the soft brown fur, an elated chuckle escaped his lips as Vicchan began to lick his face enthusiastically, encouraged by the way Yuuri burst into a fit of uncontrollable giggles as he finally collapsed completely onto the floor. Knowing how much he liked it, Yuuri began to rub his poodle behind his ears and received a noise of satisfaction as Vicchan nestled into him more, wrapping him in his warmth.

Despite how much he wanted to give his pet the attention he deserved, Yuuri was conscious of the time and knew that he needed to leave as soon as possible to make the most of the day before he was needed to help around the onsen. Biting his lip reluctantly, he pushed himself up and onto his elbows, gently shifting Vicchan from where he was sitting on his chest. The poodle whined as his paws met the wooden planks of the floor and Yuuri gave him a hug before sitting on his heels, hoping that it would be sufficient enough for now.

“Who’s a good boy?” Vicchan barked happily at the praise and Yuuri stroked his head lovingly as a grin broke out on his face, “We’ll go on a walk when I get home, how does that sound?”

At the mention of a walk, the poodle’s ears perked up and he began panting eagerly, placing his paws on Yuuri’s knees expectantly; with a small tut, Yuuri carefully removed them and rose to his feet, brushing the hairs from his clothes.

“Later, okay?”

With the promise of a short trek in the evening, Vicchan climbed off him and wandered into the next room, presumably to his bed and Yuuri slung his bag over his shoulder, making his way out of Yu-topia.


As Yuuri had expected, a cold breeze encased him as he headed to the Ice Castle and he shivered involuntarily, pulling the sleeves of his hoodie over his hands in an attempt to keep them warm. Hasetsu was silent in the earliness of the day, the roads completely empty of cars and the paths empty of people; Yuuri smiled, he found it was peaceful to be able to walk through the town and appreciate everything that little bit more.

Upon crossing the bridge, he took a moment to gaze over the water below, his eyes widening faintly as the sun began to peak over the horizon, throwing out oranges and purples across the sky and reflecting over the cool surface of the river.

Grinning softly to himself, Yuuri tore his gaze away and continued his walk to the ice rink, pulling his phone out to see whether Yuuko had texted him yet to let him know she had remembered to leave him a key. Despite wanting to keep his love for skating to himself, Yuuri had easily formed a friendship with her several years ago and she understood that he needed to just be able to skate as often as possible. She was older than Yuuri, almost nineteen, and so her parents had given her a key – which she had in turn given to Yuuri out of kindness, trusting him wholeheartedly that he would not cause it any damage.

He sighed in relief upon reading her text that yes, she had remembered the key, and no, no one else was booked in to practise for the next few hours. Despite the want that Yuuri had to possibly compete once he had improved, he was still self-conscious when he had an audience, even if it was only one or two people, and he realised that if he ever did enter a competition, he needed to work on his confidence.

(But he would cross that bridge when he got to it.)

Remembering that he hadn’t checked his notifications from the night before, falling asleep without even looking, Yuuri swiped a finger down on his phone screen, displaying several messages from Niki that he had missed and a frown tugged at his lips, feeling a hint of guilt for not bothering to reply – although he was busy.

As he read through them, he felt even worse and was quick to open the app, needing to explain himself and assure Niki that he was never disturbing Yuuri and he enjoyed their conversations; although, technically he would have been disturbing him because he was on a date after all. Shaking his head, he began to type a response, omitting the reason for him being occupied, not really seeing it as something particularly important that he needed to inform Niki of, why would he care what he was up to?

Satisfied with his response, Yuuri gave a small nod and closed the app, slipping his phone back into his pocket and adjusting his gym bag on his shoulder where it had began to fall down. Listening to the gentle patter of his trainers against the concrete, he focused on where he was walking and took the opportunity to appreciate the serenity around him.

Before he knew it, he was approaching the steps to the Ice Castle and quickly walked around the perimeter and to its rear side, retrieving the key from where Yuuko had agreed to leave it. With the small piece of metal gripped tightly in his hand, he walked over to the door and easily inserted it into the lock, earning a soft click before he pushed the door open.

It was eerily quiet inside, but he found that he preferred it much more in comparison to when screaming children occupied it, yelling at their friends as they slipped and tumbled on the ice. He took a deep breath, heading into the locker room and throwing his bag inside one of them, using it as a shelf as he unzipped the black fabric to pull out his well-worn skates.

How long had he been keeping this to himself?

Eight years?

Nine?

Ten?

Although Yuuri could remember his first time on the ice vividly, the excitement he felt as he glided across it as Yuuko slipped her hand into his, he was unable to recall when he had actually first started. With certainty, he knew that it was Minako-sensei who had initially recommended it, brushing it off as something he would try when he had the time; that time had come when Yuuko had suggested trying it out one day and he didn’t want to deny his new friend of anything. He doubted he would ever have to words to express to her how grateful he was that she had introduced skating to him that day, igniting the spark that had blown into an overwhelming passion to get better and try and try and try again; to keep going until he was up there on the podium with Viktor Nikiforov, the boy who had added fuel to the already-blazing flames in is heart-

-Yuuri let out a sigh, abruptly breaking him from his reminiscent thoughts, he was never going to be on the podium with Viktor; to do that he needed to actually compete, something that he was uncertain was even an option for him to attempt, never mind actually succeed at.

But that didn’t mean he couldn’t skate just for the sake of skating.

Placing himself on one of the benches, he pulled his trainers off and nudged them out of the way, proceeding to slip his shoes into his skates before tightly lacing them, tugging them experimentally to ensure they were secure. Confident that they wouldn’t be falling off any time soon, he tucked his belongings into the locker and turned the key before making his way to the barrier, already beginning to feel giddy at the familiarity of it.

As soon as his skates came into contact with the ice, Yuuri closed his eyes momentarily and felt any tension melt out of his body in an instant, a small smile tugging at his lips as he pushed himself forwards and began to warm up, languidly skating laps of the rink. The sound of his blades slicing through the fresh ice echoed through the empty arena, and Yuuri allowed himself to focus on that, all too familiar with the way his movements altered it.

Feeling his muscles begin to heat up from the exercise, Yuuri grabbed the hem of his hoodie and tugged it over his head, moving to tie it around his waist for the time being so that it wasn’t in his way. Deciding he was ready to begin his practise several minutes later, Yuuri attempted simple jumps: singles and doubles, landing each and every one almost perfectly with a satisfied grin.

Yuuri wasn’t aware of how much time had passed, but eventually he found himself bent over, his hands resting on his knees as he breathed heavily, dragging air into his lungs as his body shook with exhaustion. Glancing up at the large clock on the wall, he squinted to see it, his eyes widening as he realised that it had been over two hours since he’d arrived.

Deeming that as enough time before taking a break, Yuuri skated over to the edge and headed back to the locker room, pulling out his phone, glasses and water bottle from his locker before his legs practically gave out while lowering himself onto the bench. Pressing the bottle to his lips, he took large gulps of the water, a feeling of relief washing over him as the cool liquid trickled down his throat, giving him the hydration he so desperately needed. Panting from the sheer amount he had just drank, he wiped the back of his hand over his mouth, catching the droplets that hadn’t been successful in reaching his tongue.  

Upon unlocking his phone, he noticed that he had a couple of new texts – although Niki hadn’t responded yet, which tugged on Yuuri’s heart without him consciously realising; he instantly pushed down the tinge of disappointment when he was reminded of the time difference and that he would more than likely be sleeping.

The first text was from Daichi and it set butterflies off in his chest as soon as he read it, warmth spreading through him despite the simplicity of the simple message.

Returning the message with several smiley faced emojis, Yuuri swiped a finger across his screen and selected the other unread message which was from Phichit.

A giggle escaped Yuuri’s lips at Phichit’s offer and he was seriously considering it; although he had intended to spend the whole day at the rink skating, the offer to hang out with Phichit was tempting. He could easily keep skating for a couple more hours and he didn’t really want to leave yet, but he would also feel bad if he rejected Phichit. Not yet making a decision, he replied with a smirk, waiting for his response before choosing what to do.

Yuuri worried his lip between his teeth, his fingers tapping against his phone case in thought; should he tell Phichit? He’d known him for less than a week, yet he felt as though they had know each other for years, and he didn’t seem particularly malicious and Yuuri was sure he would respect his decision to keep it a secret.

After receiving several question marks to show Phichit’s impatient curiosity, Yuuri finally replied, deciding to tell him.


 

True to his word, Phichit arrived twenty minutes later, dressed similarly to Yuuri in his own blue tracksuit and a grey hoodie which he was pulling over his head as he opened the door. As he spotted him on the bench, he headed over with a grin plastered on his face and embraced him in a tight hug.

“Hi!” He greeted in an overly excited tone, his bubbly personality radiating from him as he bounced up and down on the wooden bench. Yuuri fought the smile on his face and gently pushed him away, almost suffocating from the gesture and Phichit pouted exaggeratedly at him before he was smiling again and lacing up his skates.

“So! Can I see your skating?” He intertwined his hands with Yuuri’s and began to tug him forwards in an attempt to pull him to his feet, which he obliged to and the two of them headed over to the rink and climbed onto the ice.

Yuuri dug his toe into the ice, and stared at the shavings he created, unsure of what to show him; all he had been doing were jumps so far, which wasn’t necessarily unimpressive, but he wanted to wow Phichit, to show him that he was taking it seriously. Perhaps if he could prove himself to his friend, he could also prove himself to Daichi and his family – maybe even the entire world if he got that far. Nevertheless, doing a few basic jumps wasn’t going to blow his mind, no, he needed something amazing, something that would show off what he was capable of. The routine he had been experimenting with for fun wasn’t too bad, it was no where near as impressive as Viktor’s which he had been trying to copy-

“-Yuuri.” Phichit whined, playfully poking him in the arm to grab his attention, amused by the fact that he hadn’t started skating despite the fact an entire minute had passed.

“Ah, sorry.” He blushed, running a hand through his hair shyly, “I was just thinking.”

“No worries, are you going to show me, or are we going to just stand here?” He smirked teasingly, raising an eyebrow at him.

“What do you want me to show you?” Yuuri questioned, realising that he should have asked that in the first place, it would have made it so much simpler.

“I don’t mind,” Phichit began, his blinding smile making an appearance once again as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other, rubbing his chin in thought, “do something fun, something that makes you enjoy skating!”

Yuuri didn’t even have to think about that.

“Okay, this is something I’ve been working on for a little while – so it’s no where near perfect yet,” He licked his lips and cleared his throat before continuing, noticing the soft expression Phichit wore as he listened intently, “don’t laugh, but its erm, its Viktor Nikirofov’s routine.”

Phichit’s eyebrows rose in surprise his mouth agape as he considered Yuuri’s words for a moment.

“Viktor Nikiforov?”

Yuuri nodded.

The Viktor Nikiforov?”

“Yeah, I erm, I like him a lot.” Yuuri stared at the ice once again, rubbing the nape of his neck with his hand, but he was forced to look up when he heard Phichit snickering and the smirk playing on his lips made him realise what he had just said.

“His skating, I mean! I like his skating!” Yuuri waved his hands frantically, although the redness of his cheeks did nothing to help his case and Phichit just gave an unconvinced hum before winking.

“Its fine, I’m pretty sure ninety percent of the skating community like him; to be honest I don’t blame you for wanting to have a go-“

“-Oh my god, shut up!” Yuuri placed his head in his hands, embarrassment coursing through him as Phichit just chuckled and nudged him with his elbow, managing to coax him back out of his temporary covert.

“First Niki, now Viktor, you sure have a thing for Russians huh?”

“Phichit, how many times-“

“-You know I’m only teasing you Yuuri,” He pouted, wrapping an arm around him before poking his cheek, “besides you have Daichi.”

“Yeah.”

“Now show me!” He giggled, gently pushing Yuuri towards to centre of the rink and motioning for him to skate.

Apparently Phichit could tell which routine he was referring to, because the piece of music echoed loudly through the rink as he saw Phichit attach his Ipod to a speaker and give him a thumbs up.

Feeling calm due to the fact that it was only himself and Phichit there, Yuuri found it easy to fall into the familiar movements he had been learning and practising religiously over the last few weeks; every sway of his hips, every bend in his arm and legs were seamless, never once faltering as he approached the jumps. He knew Viktor was extremely talented, and that he could do quads with ease, whereas Yuuri could only ever dream of landing them; therefore he adjusted the routine by changing them to doubles, and he focused studiously as he launched himself into the air.

He landed successfully, although he placed his hand onto the ice and let out an irritated sigh; not wanting it to influence the remainder of the routine, he blocked out the thought and moved onto the step sequence. His agility and stamina were nothing to be sniffed at, as Yuuri moved through the steps fluidly, never once missing a beat as the pace of the music increased and so did his movements. As he approached the final part of the song, he began to spin, bringing his body closer to himself to turn faster and before he knew it, he was in the final pose and the rink had returned to being silent, the only sound was Yuuri’s heavy breathing as he panted and wiped the sweat from his forehead.

After taking a moment to catch his breath, he glanced over at Phichit, who had a hand covering his mouth, his eyes wide in surprise. Yuuri timidly skated towards him, one hand resting on the bicep of the opposite arm as he rubbed small circles into it, unsure of what to say or exactly what Phichit was thinking.

“So?” He cleared his throat, laughing awkwardly as he stared into grey eyes, expectantly waiting for a response. “What did you think?”

Silence.

“What did I think?” Phichit finally spoke, an eyebrow raised in disbelief as he folded his arms over his chest, “What did I think?

“Umm, yeah?” Yuuri pulled his eyebrows together in confusion, not understanding why it was such a difficult question to answer; he didn’t even have to say anything, he could just shrug and Yuuri would take it and move on.

“I think, that you should tell your family about your skating.”

Wait.

What?

“What? Where did that come from? You literally told me less than an hour ago to tell them when I’m ready.” Yuuri questioned, baffled by Phichit’s suggestion, all he wanted was for him to say his skating was abysmal, bad or it could have been worse. He knew that he needed to tell them at some point, but it had always been a thought that he kept brushing off, setting it for a later late that he didn’t have to think about yet.

“Yuuri, you were amazing. No, that doesn’t even cover it, you were unbelievable! Are unbelievable, I don’t know what your reasons are for not telling anyone, but you should be showing the world what you’re capable of. Hell, you could even give Viktor Nikiforov a run for his money if you can skate like that.

Oh, that wasn’t what he was expecting.

Yuuri was never good at accepting praise for anything: his ballet, his grades, his cooking, and definitely  not his skating. He stared dumbly at Phichit, unsure of what to say, “thank you” was probably a good place to start though.

“Thanks.” Before Yuuri could add a ‘but’ and jump into his routine of self-deprecation, Phichit cut him off enthusiastically, wanting to drill it into his brain how impressed he was.

“You’re welcome, seriously though Yuuri, if you entered a competition, you would go so far. I know for a fact that some of the seniors who make it to the Grand Prix weren’t this talented when they were sixteen! Except Viktor, but he’s more of a god, so he doesn’t count. Will you enter a competition?”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Yuuri scoffed incredulously, brushing it off as though it wasn’t something he had thought about nearly every day.

“Why is that ridiculous?” He frowned, fixing his gaze to meet Yuuri’s so that he could tell he was being genuine in everything he said.

“Many reasons.” Yuuri sighed, leaning against the side of the rink and picking up his bottle from where he had placed it earlier, taking a long swig of the cool liquid to avoid Phichit’s inquisitive look.

He heard a sigh and seconds later felt Phichit’s hand delicately wrapping around his arm and pulling him off the ice, back to the locker room where he was lead to sit on the bench once again. The Thai boy placed himself beside Yuuri and crossed his legs, careful not to touch his blades and motioned for him to do the same, which Yuuri complied to, the two of them face to face.

“Talk to me.” Phichit offered a warm smile, although the simplicity of his question left Yuuri feeling puzzled as he furrowed his eyebrows.

Talk to him about what?

Why did they need to come off the ice to have this conversation?

Phichit instantly picked up on his confusion and took one of Yuuri’s hands into his own, a sign of affection that he appreciated; he had never had a friend who was so open with their affection like Phichit was, and it was refreshing to know that he cared for him no matter what. He offered him assurance that he was a shoulder to lean on, when Yuuri didn’t even know he needed to be reassured in the first place, but it was pleasant nevertheless and he was eternally grateful that he had him in his life.

“What’s with all of this self-doubt? You are amazing, surely you know that, right?” Phichit showered him with compliments once again and Yuuri blushed, biting his tongue to supress his instinct to deny it and brush his words under the rug like they hadn’t been said at all, or at least that they weren’t directed at him of all people.

“Thank you.” Yuuri squeezed Phichit’s hand faintly, trying to show that he meant it, regardless of what his facial expressions were suggesting.

Luckily he felt it and his lips tugged into a smile, “That’s better. You need to give yourself more credit Yuuri. Now, why are you so reluctant to do a competition?”

Yurri sighed, not wanting to get into it; it was one thing to have the thoughts and keep them to himself where he could agree with everything his mind told him, but confessing them to another person meant he had to actually face his issues, and Yuuri had never been one to face his problems head-on, when the option to ignore them was there.

“First of all,” He began, knowing that as much as it wold make him want to cringe and just sit in a dark room for a couple hours, he needed to talk it out, and he trusted Phichit, “My family don’t even know, so how am I going to enter a competition without them asking questions?”

“Tell them, problem one fixed; what’s your second reason?” Phichit waved his hand dismissively, as though it was that easy and Yuuri rolled his eyes, he couldn’t exactly blame Phichit though, after all he had never told him why.

“It’s not that simple. I’ve been doing it for over ten years! It’s gone on for too long to just say ‘Hey, by the way, remember when I said I was going to the gym all these years, I’ve actually been ice skating. Surprise!’”

“Yuuri, I don’t know about you, but if my son told me they had been ice skating instead of going to the gym, I think I would be more than happy. Think about it, yeah the gym is cool and all, big machines, big weights and big muscles – but ice skating, that is so much better! You essentially have knives attached to your shoes and you use them to move around frozen water in temperatures below zero degrees, not to mention all of the jumps and step sequences you can do! There are skaters out there who could only dream of being that good out there on the ice at your age – me included. Ok yeah sure, so of course they’re going to be surprised at first, maybe even a little confused or hurt that you didn’t tell them, but once they see how talented and dedicated you are, they’ll forget all about it and support you.”

Yuuri stared at him for a moment, it was a lot to process; he had spent all those years worrying that his family would be furious at him, that they would yell at him for lying and he was embarrassed – no, ashamed – that he had let it go on for so long, but when Phichit helped him see it from another point of view, it didn’t seem too bad, and he felt almost ridiculous for his thoughts. The best way to do it was like ripping off a plaster; it had to be fast and soon, the initial shock would be there, painfully obvious, but it would unquestionably be resolved soon after, and if he was lucky, really lucky, they would support him and help him to pursue it as a career.

“Yuuri?” He was torn from his thoughts by Phichit’s gentle voice and a small squeeze of his hand, alerting him that he was yet to reply.

“Sorry, I - erm, thank you. Really, I never thought of it that way before.”

“It’s a good job you have me then.” He grinned cheerily, always knowing how to make Yuuri smile and he moved onto their second issue to resolve, “Okay, next reason.”

Yuuri explained to Phichit that he’d always had a talent for second-guessing himself and downplaying his abilities in everything, not just skating; his friend listened closely the entire time, offering kind words and kind smiles throughout, drowning him in compliments every time he showed any indication that he was feeling insecure about something.

By the end of their heart-to-heart, Yuuri was almost in tears, overwhelmed by the support that Phichit was giving him, and there was no doubt in his mind that the two of them were going to be best friends for a very long time. Phichit pulled Yuuri closer and wrapped his arms around him, the two of them content with each other’s company without the need to say anything, until Yuuri decided to.

“I’m so glad I told you, thank you Phichit.”

“What are friends for?” He smiled, rubbing circles into Yuuri’s back with the tips of his fingers, feeling him relax even more into their embrace.

“Other than you, I could only really talk about it to Yuuko, but I don’t want to bug her with my doubts; and now I have Niki too, I guess, but he’s not too much help considering he lives all the way in Russia.” Yuuri focused his attention on his hands as he rested his cheek on Phichit’s shoulder, feeling the need to stare at something as he spoke.

“Is Niki interested in skating too?” Phichit asked, his curiosity as clear as day and Yuuri nodded, licking his lips before speaking.

“Yeah, he said it’s just a hobby though, like me. But imagine if we could compete one day, that would be amazing.”

“What happened to competing against Viktor? Do you have a new Russian love in your life?” Phichit gasped, feigning shock, and even though he couldn’t see his face, Yuuri could tell that he was grinning, clearly happy with how flustered he could make him.

Yuuri groaned and buried his head deeper into Phichit’s shoulder to try and hide the flush of his cheeks, “I wish I had never told you, I should have just skated it without saying anything and left you none the wiser.”

“That’s called plagiarism, sweetie. You can’t take credit for other people’s work.”

“Okay, that’s true. Then I wish I had just told you that I like his skating straight off the bat, rather than an afterthought.”  Yuuri admitted, still annoyed by how misleading his words had been when he initially confessed that he was skating Viktor’s routine.

“So you’re admitting it was an afterthought?” Phichit’s voice was filled with joy, like he had just caught Yuuri out once again, and he could feel him giggling as his body shook softly, “So you do like Viktor, his skating is just a bonus. I see how it is. He is pretty hot, not going to lie, I would swoon if-“

“-Ok, that’s enough.” Yuuri grumbled, finally breaking their embrace and giving his best friend a stern look, almost faltering when he could see how Phichit’s eyes were glistening with mirth and he was trying to hold back a laugh. When he began to raise his eyebrows suggestively and winked, Yuuri shoved him away and shook his head, despite the smile that was threatening to betray him.

“I’m sorry.”

(He wasn’t sorry.)

“Honestly, I really am.”

(He really  wasn’t.)

“Yuuuuuuuri.” He whined, placing his hands on his shoulders and shaking him playfully when he wouldn’t meet his gaze.

“You’ve wounded me, Phichit, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to move past this. There’s only so much teasing a boy can take.” Yuuri had to admit that Phichit had rubbed off on him already, making him even more sarcastic and dramatic than he already was, but when he saw the way Phichit chuckled, he knew it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“Oh, no Yuuri. Please tell me what I can do to earn your forgiveness.” He pouted, dropping to the floor and wrapping his arms around Yuuri’s legs like a child.

“Hmmm, buy me lunch?” He joked, under the impression that Phichit knew he was playing along, but he grinned and hopped back onto his feet, nodding happily.

“Deal.”

-

The two of them left the Ice Castle shortly after collecting their items from their lockers, heading to a nearby restaurant for a bite to eat; to his dismay, Yuuri’s stomach had been rumbling for the entire duration of their walk which did not go unnoticed by Phichit, who giggled and prodded his stomach with a cheeky grin.

Upon arriving, they took their seats at a small table in the back corner of the dainty restaurant, hoping to have some slight relief from the rest of the customers and their loud chatter. Yuuri picked up one of the menus as he sat down and scanned his eyes over it, not really fancying anything in particular; he wasn’t sure if Phichit was actually intending to pay for his meal, but just to be safe, he selected the cheapest thing he could find that would satisfy his hunger nonetheless. It took him less than a minute to decide on ordering an omurice, familiar with the taste and knowing that it wouldn’t take long to cook, something which was definitely a priority given the way his stomach was turning.

Phichit, however, seemed to be taking his time and tapped his fingers against the wooden table as he hummed thoughtfully to himself, reading over the options several times. He seemed to notice the hit of impatience that Yuuri wore on his face, because he cleared his throat and rose to his feet, asking Yuuri what he wanted before informing him that he was going to look for someone to place their order.

He returned a moment later with two glasses of water and sat back down beside Yuuri, placing one in front of him with a smile before taking large gulp of his own.

Yuuri offered a small ‘thank you’, lifting the cool glass to his lips as he waited for Phichit to initiate a conversation, knowing that he was better at selecting topics to talk about.

“So,” He began, a smirk tugging at his lips, as he rose his eyebrows in intrigue, “how was your date last night?”

Yuuri had been wondering when he would bring it up, his friend had a talent for embarrassing him and this was one way which he would definitely succeed in making his cheeks flush.

“You were there for part of it, you know it went well.” Yuuri tried to avoid the topic slightly, not particularly wanting to discuss it in detail; he was unsure if he would be able to endure more of Phichit’s relentless teasing, considering the amount he had already done in the short time they had been together that day. Despite his best efforts to dismiss it, Phichit was not ready to do the same and he simply leaned forwards on the table, reflecting his interest in wanting to know more and gestured for Yuuri to continue.

“What about the parts I wasn’t there for? How did they go?” With a suggestive wink, Phichit nudged him with his elbow, resulting in Yuuri rolling his eyes and sighing, still not yet accustomed to his need to know everything; although another part of him couldn’t help but feel flattered that he thought he life was interesting enough to want to know all the details about, and so he decided to indulge Phichit, reciting a basic account of what had happened, including their trip to the beach, but excluding their kiss – Yuuri was certain that he would never hear the end of it if he told him.

“So, it sounds like it was pretty much a perfect date, huh?” Phichit grinned, his chin resting on top of his joined hands as he looked at Yuuri with a soft gaze, his fondness for his new friend clear in his features.

Yuuri nodded out of instinct, easily agreeing with Phichit’s statement, but he swallowed faintly when he remembered the flash of doubt he’d had the same morning and he bit his lip, staring at his glass of water pensively, trying to decide whether it was worth bringing it up or not. He was unsure of whether it may just be one of those things that his mind twisted to make it seem worse than it was, something that would sound ridiculous if he spoke it out loud – but then again, talking about his skating had been helpful earlier, so maybe it would be best if he talked it out with Phichit; even if it was something that was just silly, he would know that and could move on.

“Yuuri?” Already able to detect when Yuuri was lost in his thoughts, Phichit pulled him out of them by calling his name, placing a hand over where Yuuri’s sat in front of him, “Are you alright? Did something happen?”

“Well, there was this one thing - I mean, it’s probably nothing,” Yuuri swallowed, running a hand through his hair sheepishly as he noticed that Phichit’s expression had turned serious, almost worried and he was quick to elaborate, not wanting his friend to get the wrong impression, “So we were eating and my phone went off, so I went to check it, as you do when you get a notification, and Daichi like, grabbed my wrist and said, “don’t”.”

“Wait, what?” Phichit’s eyebrows pulled together in a frown, assessing what Yuuri had just said, his face contorted with confusion, “Why?”

“He said he wanted to just enjoy the date without any interruptions,” Yuuri shrugged, taking a sip of his water to hide the doubt behind his voice, noticing that Phichit’s expression hadn’t softened at this information, “I don’t think he had bad intentions, it was nice to just spend the time together without needed to look at my phone all the time.”

Phichit wasn’t convinced, however.

“I don’t know Yuuri, that sounds dodgy.” He spoke with apprehension, worry evident in his tone and it unnerved Yuuri slightly; it was one thing for him to have his own doubts, but if his best friend could see that something was wrong too, it was something entirely different, “What did you say?”

“Well, at first I was confused and it showed, but when he told me why I kind of just agreed and put it back on the table.” Yuuri worried his lip, fiddling with his hands in his lap as a distraction from Phichit’s hard gaze.

“Yuuri, what if something bad happened? What if there was an emergency and you didn’t know about it because you didn’t check your phone?” Although his tone was on the verge of being patronising, similar to that of a parent scolding their child, his expression was only full of good-hearted concern and Yuuri felt the need to assure him that he had considered that before agreeing.

“That was one of my first thoughts too, I knew that if my phone rang I would pick it up, or if there were lots of messages sent in a row that seemed urgent I would look, but my phone didn’t make a peep until later into the night when it was my mother telling me to come home.” He explained, hoping that it would be satisfactory to Phichit, after a moment of consideration, he nodded and hummed, managing a weak smile.

“Ok, just make sure that next time you just say no, you don’t have to do what he says you know.”

“I know.” Yuuri considered defending Daichi, listing all the good moments they’d had the same night, but he knew that it was pointless and they wouldn’t cancel out Daichi’s odd behaviour, so instead he just settled for a smile and rested his chin on the palm of his hand.

“So, did you miss anything important?” Phichit questioned, glancing around the restaurant for a second to see if he could see their food approaching any time soon.

“No.” Yuuri shrugged, before backtracking and feeling slightly guilty when he realised he had just completely brushed Niki’s messages off, “Actually, Niki texted me, but other than that, no.”

Remembering that he had sent said Russian texts earlier, Yuuri pulled his phone out from his pocket and switched his mobile data on before selecting the app, hoping that he had received a reply over the last few hours. Much to his delight, he did in fact have a few messages waiting for him and he eagerly selected the chat with a grin tugging at his lips as he typed his own reponse.

 Unsure of whether Niki was actually interested in hearing about his date, or was just trying to be polite, Yuuri found himself wanting to shift the topic to something else, and for a reason he couldn’t quite place, he even felt slightly awkward discussing Daichi with him.

 

“Niki says hi, by the way.” Yuuri grinned, looking up from his phone momentarily to see the knowing smile on his friend’s face and he shook his head, trying to dismiss whatever thoughts he may be having, especially after everything that had been said earlier at the rink regarding him and Viktor.

“Tell him I say hi too, and I’m still under the impression that I have dibs on him.” Phichit chuckled, his eyes glistening with mirth and Yuuri nodded before typing a reply, leaving out the last part.

 

 

Yuuri placed his phone on the table momentarily and hid his head in his hands, wondering why on Earth he hadn’t just said ‘no’; there was no way that he was going to admit the real reason for embarrassing himself was that his best friend had been persistently teasing him over his not-so-subtle crush on Viktor Nikiforov. Deciding that he would just try and dismiss it, he picked his phone back up and proceeded with their conversation.

 

 

As he exited the app and tucked his phone back into his pocket, Yuuri found it impossible to ignore the way Phichit was watching him with an amused smile, and he belatedly registered the way his own face was displaying a large grin with cheeks which were dusted with pink. Letting out an awkward cough, Yuuri avoided his gaze and focused on his half-full glass of water as though it was the most interesting thing in the world, much to the delight of Phichit who instantly picked up on the fact that Niki had either been complimenting him, telling him jokes, or just overall improving Yuuri’s mood.

Before Phichit could say anything to initiate his friendly interrogation, a waitress was approaching their table with two steaming plates and Yuuri had never been so grateful for such perfect timing.

Chapter Text

The following weeks blended together easily and Yuuri soon found himself in a comfortable routine; his weekdays consisted of attending school and texting Niki throughout the long hours and afterwards, whereas his weekends were spent between the Ice Castle, Diachi’s house, or his desk where a pile of homework was his only company. It wasn’t the most exciting that his life could have been, but it was familiar and he didn’t see any need to try and change anything any time soon.

Despite his attempts to try and get Niki to open up further and share more information about himself, the Russian seemed to have become reluctant whenever Yuuri tried to get to know him better; even basic questions such as his appearance were replied to in vague answers, leaving him confused and all the more curious as to what Niki actually looked like. Not wanting to compromise their new friendship from being too intrusive, Yuuri decided to stop asking, a last for a while; in the end, it didn’t really matter who he was or what he looked like, as long as he was there for Yuuri when he needed him, he had no reason to complain.

Although it had made him blush furiously and hide his head in his hands whenever he received compliments from him, Yuuri couldn’t deny that Niki’s words had actually helped him a lot; his confidence on the ice had grown further and the possible thought of competing against him someday – or even just meeting him – drove Yuuri to train harder than he ever had done before, wanting nothing more than to show him that his skating could be as good as he believed it to be.

It was the first of October and Yuuri couldn’t help but think about the Japanese Nationals that would be commencing in just two months, a part of him really wanted to apply, to see if he would be good enough and prove that his skating hadn’t been a waste of time; nevertheless, a larger part of him was terrified to even think about competing. Despite it being his dream to become a professional figure skater, the thought of actually being on the ice with so many people staring at him made him shudder and the dismissed the possibility, there was always next year.

He was certain that if he talked to Niki about it, he would receive nothing but encouragement, however, the reality of the situation was that Niki still hadn’t seen Yuuri’s skating, therefore all of his praise may be meaningless if he couldn’t deliver – that doubt alone made a frown tug at Yuuri’s lips. A thought suddenly popped into his head as he thought about Niki: was he competing?

Yuuri wouldn’t be surprised, the boy was almost eighteen and could already land quad flips after all; if his coach didn’t insist on him being on the ice to represent Russia, it would be the worst waste of talent imaginable. He wouldn’t know until he asked, grabbing his phone from where it was laying on the table, he decided to take a break from his homework and opened the app, sending Niki a message.

Luckily, the time difference between the two of them meant that he would have just woken up, and so the typing bubble appeared a few minutes later followed by an immediate response.

“Shit.” Yuuri ran a hand through his hair in irritation, did he just flirt with Niki? No, no, of course not, he had a boyfriend. It was just friendly banter, that’s all. To make matters worse, Niki didn’t even understand it, and there was no way that Yuuri was going to explain it. Hoping that he could just change a word somewhere and pass it off as a typo, Yuuri stared at the message for a few moments before giving up with a sigh and tried to dismiss it.

As Yuuri had expected, Niki was all for him competing, and although it just proved that he could have confidence that he would be cheering him on the entire way, it didn’t help his nerves and he was still extremely doubtful that he would end up entering. Besides, he still had many hurdles to cross, the first of which was actually telling his family and boyfriend – something that no longer seemed as daunting ever since his chat with Phichit a few weeks ago – but was still hanging over him, and with it, a cloud of uncertainty of how they would react. Another factor that Yuuri hadn’t taken into account, was that he didn’t even have a coach, he was pretty sure that he wouldn’t be allowed to even apply without one.

Although the barriers he faced prevented him from competing, and should have made him frustrated, they actually did the opposite; they meant that he didn’t have to choose whether or not to try and get into Nationals, the choice had already been made for him, it gave him a strange sense of structure to his life and reminded him that he needed to keep practising.

A small beep sounded from his phone and he felt a flash of confusion, Niki had only just left, why would he be back already? However, the emotion was short lived when he unlocked the device and found that it was actually a text from Phichit.

Less than fifteen minutes later, Phichit had arrived and the of them returned to Yuuri’s room and they made themselves comfortable on the bed, sitting opposite with crossed legs. Phichit pulled the backpack from his arms and placed it between them, raising an eyebrow at Yuuri and trying to bite back a smirk.

“Are you ready?” Although he was trying to keep a straight face, Phichit’s lips upturned into a smile, clearly excited to show Yuuri whatever it was that he bought and it only made him more nervous – his friend was unpredictable and it could be literally anything.

“I don’t know, am I?” Yuuri laughed nervously, adjusting his glasses on the bridge of his nose as Phichit just nodded and began to unzip the black bag. He pulled out a small cardboard tube and Yuuri stared at it curiously, turning it around in his hands once Phichit had placed it in his lap and stared at him expectantly, not wanting to miss his reaction.

“Open it.” He nudged Yuuri with his knee, biting his lip to supress the giggle that was desperately trying to escape; upon seeing Yuuri’s confusion on how to open it, he rolled his eyes in amusement, “Take the cap off the top.”

Following his instructions, Yuuri nodded, pulling it off with a small ‘pop’.

“You shouldn’t have.” Before he had even seen what was inside, he smiled fondly at Phichit and then continued to work on getting the item out; he was still not entirely sure why he had bought him a gift anyway, it wasn’t a special occasion, and he couldn’t think of any reason for him t-

“You really shouldn’t have.” Yuuri groaned, pulling the large sheet of paper out and rubbing a hand down his face in embarrassment.

“Don’t you like it?” Phiciht feigned a pout, his eyes breaking the façade with the mischievous glint that was always there, “I ordered it all of the way from Russia, Yuuri, Russia.”

“Why?” Yuuri tried to be annoyed with his friend, but he found himself faltering and he shook his head, slightly touched by the fact that his friend had actually spent money just to tease him even more than he’d already done so.

“Why not? Now you can look at him every night before you go to sleep, or whenever Daichi isn’t around and you need to-“

“-No, stop right there.” Yuuri prodded his finger harshly into Phichit’s side, earning a small squeal before he held his hands up in a surrendering position, his eyes still full of mirth.

“Sorry.”

“No you’re not.” Yuuri laughed, catching him out on his lie, and instead of denying it, Phichit just shrugged.

“You got me there. Anyway, aren’t you going to hang it up?” Phichit began to look around the room, trying to determine which wall it would be best on, but Yuuri just shook his head.

“My room doesn’t need any posters, especially not of Viktor Nikiforov; that’s just taking it too far.”

“But Yuuri, you’ll hurt my feelings if you don’t,” Phichit whined, “and anyway, you memorised and skated his routine, I’d hardly say having a collection of posters is ‘too far’.”

“A collection?” Yuuri looked at him with furrowed eyebrows, glancing to the bag that was still sitting between them.

“Yeah, the rest are on their way, I ordered this one first and then later decided to buy more, so they haven’t arrived yet.” He offered Yuuri an innocent smile, and in turn received a shove that left him laying backwards on the bed as Yuuri just stared at him with folded arms.

“You’re unbelievable.” He sighed in disbelief, turning his attention to the large poster in his hands that showed a sixteen-year old Viktor Nikiforov on the ice, his long silver hair tied back in a ponytail while he skated in a perfectly fitted tight black costume. It was a new photo of him, having only been taken last year and if Yuuri was honest, he felt a pang of jealousy; he knew that despite now being the same age as Viktor was on the poster, the Russian had already competed and was rapidly rising through the skating community. Nevertheless, the admiration he had for him outweighed it significantly and Yuuri found himself smiling at the sheet, gently running his fingertips over it and receiving a smug chuckle from Phichit.

"I knew you'd like it." He smirked, glancing at where Yuuri's hands were now resting on Viktor's smiling face, "Don't get too attached though, okay? I've heard that having a one sided conversation with a poster can drive you insane."

Yuuri just rolled his eyes, pulling his hands away and rising to his feet as he padded over to the bare wall opposite his bed; laying the paper flat against it, he gently smoothed it out with his hands, attempting to straighten out the curve it had adopted from being rolled into a tube for such a long time. Once satisfied, he held it in place with one hand, while using his other to retrieve some double sided tape from his desk.

"Hey Phichit, come help me with this please." Yuuri asked sweetly, his eyes glistening as he shot his friend a bright smile; Phichit was by his side in a second, placing his hands on the poster while Yuuri proceeded to rip small lengths of tape and secure them under the four corners.

It took them less than two minutes to make sure it was straight and the two of them took a step back to admire the poster, Yuuri beginning to giggle softly at how strange it seemed to have the boy he idolised staring at him - even if it wasn't real.

"It looks great, an excellent addition to your room, if I do say so myself." Phichit grinned, nudging Yuuri with his elbow when he noticed how much he loved it, even if he didn't necessarily want to admit it.

Yuuri hummed in agreement, not quite saying the words but Phichit seemed to take it as being sufficient enough, making his way back to sit on the bed and flopping onto his back with a gentle bounce.

"Soooo," Yuuri began, following Phichit and crossing his legs as he placed himself beside his friend, "What now?"

"Hmm, I'm not sure, what do you want to do?" Phichit asked, turning himself over and resting his chin on the palm of his hand as he stared up at Yuuri.

Pondering for a moment, Yuuri ran a hand through his tousled hair and bit his lip in thought, going over a few options in his head that might sound appealing to Phichit. As he spotted his phone sitting beside him, he was instantly reminded of his earlier chat with Niki and an idea popped into his head, his face lighting up excitedly.

"Can we go to the rink?" Yuuri suggested, his eyes full of hope and he knew that Phichit wouldn't be able to say no; just as he had expected, he nodded, a small smile tugging at his lips as he pushed himself into a sitting position and stretched his arms above his head.

"Sure," he nodded, his smile increasing slightly when his eyes landed on his backpack, "I brought my skates just incase."

"You know me so well." Yuuri grinned, wrapping his arms around Phichit to embrace him in a brief hug before pulling away and making his way to the door and editing for his friend to follow him, "Thank you for going with me by the way."

"No problem, I skate too Yuuri remember." Phichit laughed, his tone teasing, although it made Yuuri blush and his gaze drop to the floor in embarrassment.

"I-I know, sorry, I didn't mean-"

"-it's fine Yuuri, I know." Phichit was quick to reassure him, cutting him off before he could begin to feel bad, "But seriously, I really don't mind, I like going with you; you're great to watch, maybe I'll even pick up a few tips."

Yuuri scoffed, shaking his head, "Please, I don't even know what I'm doing."

"Could have fooled me."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever, let's go." Yuuri was quick to shut down the compliments, still not entirely sure how to respond and Phichit seemed to understand, nodding fondly at him with a smile and the two of them made their way to the Ice Castle.


 

"So, did you want to come for any particular reason?" Phichit questioned curiously as they sat in the locker room, the two of them lacing up their skates and feeling glad that the rink was emptying of children as they went home for their dinner.

"Yeah, actually. Could you - would you," Yuuri cleared his throat, tearing his gaze away from Phichit as a soft pink dusted his cheeks, "would you mind recording me?"

Phichit's eyebrows pulled together slightly, his curiosity peaking even further but he nodded nonetheless, "Of course. Can I ask why?"

Yuuri licked his lips and swallowed, knowing that he looked embarrassed but he attempted a nonchalant shrug nevertheless, "No reason, just wanted to look back at it to see how to improve."

Phichit stared at him, not believing his lie for a second and he folded his arms, a mischievous glint in his eyes, "Tell me the truth Yuuri."

"What makes you think that's not the truth?" Yuuri asked incredulously, feigning confusion as he turned to face Phichit with a small frown.

"You wouldn't be so red if that was the case." Phichit explained matter-of-factly, feeling a hint of smugness at his observations and his ability to read Yuuri after less than a month of friendship.

"Ugh, fine." Yuuri reluctantly admitted, hiding his head in his hands to avoid Phichit's questioning gaze, "You remember Niki right?"

"Yuuri I can't hear you when you mumble in your hands, all I heard was something about Nikiforov; you're hopeless, you really can't go two minutes without mentioning Viktor can you?" He snickered, his teasing seemingly unrelenting and Yuuri finally removed his hands from his face to make eye contact.

"You're so annoyi - I didn't even - ugh, I said Niki, not Nikiforov, give me a break." He groaned, playfully jabbing Phichit with his index finger as his friend pushed his hands away with a fake scowl.

"It's not my fault they sound so similar." He pouted, folding his arms over his chest and childishly sticking his tongue out at Yuuri, "What a coincidence, huh?"

"Yeah, sure, if you say so," Yuuri waved a hand dismissively, not thinking too much about it because for all he knew it might be a popular name in Russia, besides the population was huge, so he didn't really see anything significant about it, "anyway, so you remember Niki?"

"Which one?" He joked, laughing to himself as Yuuri rolled his eyes.

"Russian Niki."

"They're both Russian." Phichit reminded him, and Yuuri almost face palmed for his stupidity.

"My Niki."

"Your Niki? Are you not telling me something Yuuri?" Phichit's eyes were wide, a grin on his face as his mouth hung open in badly concealed amusement.

"For the last time-"

"-I know, I know, 'Niki is just your friend.'" Phichit was the one to roll his eyes this time, mimicking Yuuri's voice as he recited the phrase he had heard so many times before, "Anyway, what about him?"

"I kind of said I'd send him a video of me skating." Yuuri admitted sheepishly, tugging on the ends of his jacket sleeves, unsure of how Phichit would react, whether or not he would approve; after all, he hadn't known Niki for long, he didn't know what he looked like, didn't even know his real nam-

"-that's so cool!" Phichit tore Yuuri from his thoughts, stopping his doubts from clawing their way up and as he turned to face him, the large grin that was on his face instantly calmed Yuuri's hint of nerves.

"You think so?" He asked sceptically, wanting to be confident that he was making the right choice; if he received Phichit's blessing then he wouldn't even think twice.

"Yeah, I mean, what's the worst that could happen?"


 

"Are you sure Yuuri? You've been through it eight times already, I'm sure one of these recordings is fine." Phichit couldn't hide the slight whine in his tone, he didn't mind being at the rink or watching Yuuri skate, but he couldn't deny that he was beginning to grow bored of recording the same routine over and over again - he wanted to skate too.

"I don't want it to be 'fine', I want it to be amazing, first impressions are important," he declared, leaning against the barrier as he tried to catch his breath, taking occasional sips from his water bottle as his heart rate slowed down, "just one more time, I promise."

"Okay, fine."

Yuuri skated it three more times before finally accepting that one of the videos would be good enough; despite his stamina, he found he was shaking from exhaustion and he wasn't surprised to notice that over two hours had passed since they arrived. Sliding over to the gap in the barrier, he climbed off the ice and placed himself on a nearby bench, panting heavily and wiping the beads of sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.

Placing Yuuri's phone back into his hand, Phichit made his own way onto the ice, skating laps as the former took a break and deleted the videos in which he had messed up, deciding to narrow the other few down when he got home.

Over the last few weeks, the two of them had been going to the rink together more and more often, and Yuuri had to admit that he was impressed by Phichit's skating ability; it didn't take long to be informed that he'd had a coach back in Thailand and it showed in the way he moved effortlessly across the ice.

Yuuri knew he needed a coach, knew that he'd be able to do so much more with someone's guidance, achieve so much more; nevertheless, he wasn't quite ready to cross that bridge yet, and instead practised his jumps off the ice, spending countless hours in Minako's ballet studio trying to work on his form and step sequences he could adjust and transfer to his skating.

He's get a coach soon, he promised himself, but he still needed to tell everyone and he was not looking forward to it.

It could wait for now.

"Yuuri!" Phichit called, grabbing his attention as Yuuri fixed his eyes on him, slipping his phone into the pocket of his jacket.

"Yeah?" He smiled warmly, resting his elbows on his knees and placing his chin on his hands, getting comfortable to watch whatever Phichit wanted to show him.

"What do you think of this?" He asked hopefully, a sheepish look in his eyes as he increased the volume of the speaker before skating into the centre of the rink. The routine that Phichit had come up with was nothing short of fantastic, his movements fluid as he weaved in and out, spinning gracefully as his blades cut through the ice seamlessly.

Yuuri wasn't sure how long it lasted but it seemed to be too short, leaving him wanting more as his friend ended in a pose and turned to face him, his eyes lit up with hope and pride and he rushed to the barrier to hug him, showering Phichit with as many compliments as he had received himself.

(Which was a lot.)

It was odd, and almost exhilarating to see the way Phichit's cheeks were now tinged with a whisper of pink, the slightest indication of a blush; Yuuri couldn't deny that it felt good to make his friend flustered in the same way he was after enduring his never-ending jokes and teases.

"Wanna grab something to eat?" Phichit suggested, breaking the eye contact as he made his way to the locker room to remove his skates and swap them for his sneakers instead, Yuuri following closely behind.

"Sure."

Not particularly wanting to walk all the way into the town to eat when they didn't need to, they settled for ordering something from the small snack bar in the Ice Castle, knowing they'd be able to find something worthy of being eaten. As they took their seats at one of the few tables, they fell into easy conversation, topics rolling off their tongues as easily as the act of breathing itself, and Yuuri found that there always seemed to be s small smile tugging at his lips at any given moment.

A small buzz grabbed his attention as he took a bite of his food, placing his chopsticks down as he swallowed and retrieved his phone. Half expecting to see the name of his Russian friend on the screen, Yuuri couldn't hide his slight surprise when he saw that it was from Daichi instead. Feeling a hint of confusion, he unlocked his phone and opened the message, he thought that Daichi was busy with his friends - at least that's what he'd told Yuuri the day before.

"Hey Phichit?" Yuuri questioned, causing his friend to look up from his food and smile sweetly at him.

"Yes?"

"Do you, erm...do you want to hang out with me and Daichi after this?" He asked hesitantly, if Yuuri was honest, he was conflicted; a part of him wanted Phichit to decline the offer so that it wouldn't be awkward when the three of them met up, for some reason he felt like Daichi didn't particularly like his new friend and it made him uncomfortable, not understanding his dislike when he was so bubbly and friendly. On the other hand, he wanted Phichit to say yes, hoping that Daichi would cancel his offer and let him spend the rest of the day with his friend instead; he always felt more relaxed around him, felt like he didn't have to try and impress him in the same way he did for his boyfriend.

"Thanks for the offer, but I don't want to third-wheel, I'll leave you two love birds alone." He smirked, sending Yuuri a cheeky wink before continuing his meal, turning his attention back to his own phone where he was scrolling through the newest Instagram posts.

"Ah, okay." Yuuri smiled nevertheless, knowing that it would be nice to spend some more time with Daichi, the boy seemed to be studiously focusing on his schoolwork so much it was a miracle his brain hadn't burst yet.

Yuuri swallowed the lump in his throat at the slight bluntness of Daichi's messages; he usually always sent hearts but for reason he had stopped during their conversation, leaving Yuuri's unrequited and it settled heavily in his chest. Shaking his head, he tried to dismiss the thought, he knew he was over reacting, Daichi probably wasn't even thinking about it, he probably just forgot or didn't think Yuuri would mind or even notice.

"You okay?" Phichit asked, his expression showing concern as he noticed the small frown on Yuuri's lips.

"I'm fine." Yuuri feigned a convincing smile, flashing his teeth with a wide grin and burying his doubts; even though it was a natural response to assure Phichit nothing was wrong, he felt as though if he said it, it would make it true and he nodded to himself before finishing his meal.

It was fine.

They were fine.

-

Yuuri and Phichit parted ways after finishing their food, Yuuri heading back to the onsen while Phichit stayed to skate a little longer on his own.

Somehow managing to avoid being roped into doing chores, Yuuri went straight up his room and placed his laptop onto his bed, climbing up and laying in front of it as it came to life. Quickly typing his password in, he grabbed a wire and plugged his phone into one of the empty ports, waiting patiently for it to appear on the screen.

Feeling the eagerness seeping through him, he retrieved his headphones and slipped them on, tapping his fingers against the rim of his laptop while his phone uploaded the videos.

Inhaling deeply, he clicked on the first thumbnail, watching the video nervously, unsure of whether the way he felt translated into his skating the way he had hoped. With a small frown, he stopped the video and deleted it, moving onto the next one after deciding that it wasn't good enough to send to Niki.

Although it wasn't perfect, he couldn't deny that his skating did look better than he had expected; he could almost see where Phichit was coming from with all of his praise, but he still knew that his friend was exaggerating to make him more confident nevertheless.

Soon enough, Yuuri had narrowed the eleven videos down to two and he flicked between them, skipping to random parts and seeing which looked better. Upon deciding that he wanted his step sequence to be the most impressive part, he focused on that part of each video, finally making his decision and being left with only a single video that he would send to Niki.

Before he had the chance, he phone buzzed from where it was sitting and Yuuri quickly grabbed it, lazily swiping a finger across his screen to be greeted with a new message. It was from Daichi, informing him that he was on his way with a love heart emoji; a small smile tugged at Yuuri's lips when he spotted it, quickly dismissing his earlier doubts and he sent a quick reply before running to the bathroom to shower, instantly regretting not having one at the Ice Castle.

Less than five minutes later he was frantically rubbing a soft towel against his damp hair, wanting to make some sort of effort for his boyfriend who would be arriving any minute. Glancing at the clock on the wall, Yuuri hastily pulled some fresh jeans over his legs and dragged a tea coloured jumper over his torso, hoping he had enough time before Daichi arrived.

Quickly closing the tab for his video, he shut his laptop down and placed the device back on his desk before giving himself a once over in his mirror and trying to flatten his wild hair down.

"Yuuri!" Mari's voice travelled up the stairs and he took a deep breath before making his way downstairs to greet his boyfriend.

"Hey, stranger." Daichi winked when he spotted him, a smirk playing on his lips and Yuuri couldn't hide the way his eyes scrunched slightly as he grinned in response, lacing their hands together and leading him up to his room.

"So, how was your day?" He asked sweetly, brushing the hair away from Yuuri's eyes as they sat beside each other on the bed, taking in the warmth they provided.

"It was good," Yuuri said honestly, deciding not to elaborate and he turned to Daichi, "how was yours?"

"Hmm, it was okay," he hummed, a pout on his lips as he looked at Yuuri through his long eyelashes, "it would have been better if I'd spent it with you though."

Yuuri felt a pang of guilt in his chest but tried to brush it off, after all it wasn't entirely his fault that they had miscommunicated; even more than that, Yuuri'd had a wonderful day of skating with Phichit and he couldn't bring himself to regret it.

"You're here now though." He offered, shooting him his best smile before turning to lean on his shoulder as an arm wrapped around his small frame.

Daichi made a small hum of agreement, placing a kiss to Yuuri's hairline and resting his cheek against his head.

"Do you mind if we lay down?" Yuuri asked hesitantly, clearing his throat before continuing, "It's just my neck's cramping a bit."

"Of course." Daichi nodded, shifting away from Yuuri as he stretched his arms above his head and rolled his neck to try and soothe the tension that had been building up.

The couple laid side by side, facing each other and Yuuri delicately took one of Daichi's larger hands into his own, studying it and bending his fingers curiously, fascinated by how well their hands fit together, earning an amused chuckle from his boyfriend as he shook his head fondly.

Yuuri smiled sheepishly, adjusting his glasses and continuing, enjoying the comfortable silence between them as they just enjoyed each other's company.

He could feel Daichi's gaze on him, watching intently and he couldn't bring himself to look up at him, unsure of what kind of expression he would see; instead, he felt a hand lightly grab his chin and tilt his head upwards, forcing him to look up where he saw a soft smile.

He saw his eyes flicker down to his lips and found himself instinctively wetting them with his tongue, turning his attention to Daichi's before the two of them made eye contact once again.

With only a hint of hesitation, Daichi leaned forward, closing the distance and Yuuri's eyes fluttered shut as he waited for the feeling of Daichi's lips against his own, but it never came.

"Yuuri, what's that?"

Opening his eyes in confusion, he stared at his boyfriend who was no longer looking at him, but instead his gaze was fixed behind him and Yuuri scrunched his eyebrows, unsure of what was so interesting.

Turning over on the bed, Yuuri's heart sank when he realised that he'd completely forgotten about his poster and he swallowed the lump in his throat, trying to figure out what to say.

"Yuuri?" Daichi repeated expectantly, his tone laced with something that he couldn't quite put his finger on and Yuuri squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and inhaled deeply before facing him once again.

"It's a poster." He shrugged, hoping he came across as nonchalant when in reality his heart was beginning to beat faster, feeling like a child who had been caught red handed with his hand in the cookie jar.

"Yeah I can see that," Daichi said cooly, and Yuuri could tell that he was trying to hold back the bite in his tone as he waited for an explanation, "but who is it?"

"Viktor Nikiforov." He admitted, begging his body to not blush for once at the mention of his name - and for once it listened, or at least Daichi didn't pick up on it.

"Who?" He questioned, his eyebrows pulled together, looking more confused by the second and Yuuri remembered belatedly that not everyone knew who he was and coughed awkwardly.

"A figure skater; Phichit bought me it as a joke and made me hang it up." Yuuri half lied with a chuckle, knowing that he was intending to hang it up anyway - not that anyone needed to know that, especially not his boyfriend.

"Right..." Daichi glanced between Yuuri and the poster, still not satisfied with the answer, "Why is it a joke?"

"Phichit showed me some of his routines and I said they were good, so he kind of exaggerated how much I liked him and yeah...the poster was born." He found the lies slipping easily from his tongue and he felt the guilt tugging at him as he lied straight to his boyfriend but he couldn't admit the real reason behind it.

"I didn't know you were into figure skating." He mused, shooting him a curious glance as Yuuri nervously tugged the sleeves of his sweater and tried to worm his way out of it.

"I-I'm not!" He quickly defended, wincing at himself for his denial and the way Daichi's face scrunched up further in confusion at his tone, "Phichit Skates, and he wanted to tell me about it, so I listened and then he showed me Viktor."

Despite it being a perfect opportunity to just confess to Daichi and come clean about his dream of figure skating, he wanted to avoid any confrontation and dug himself further into a hole, knowing that he was only making it more difficult for himself.

"Okay..." Daichi gazed at him skeptically, thankfully not noticing the way Yuuri was nervously pulling loose threads from his jumper. He sighed in relief when Vicchan came bounding into the room, his excited bark dissolving the tension as Yuuri cooed at him, running his hands over the soft fur.

Looking over his shoulder as his poodle sat in his lap, he flashed Daichi and innocently hopeful smile.

"Want to go for a walk?"

Chapter Text

After a long - and very much needed - walk with Daichi and Vicchan, Yuuri returned home feeling more at ease, the blanket of tension that had surrounded them previously no longer clinging to him uncomfortably.

As they approached the entrance of Yutopia, they let their intertwined hands break apart and with a shy smile, Yuuri pulled his boyfriend in for a brief hug as he received a gentle kiss to his temple.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?” He asked, pulling back to look Yuuri in the eyes with a soft smile.

 “Yeah, see you tomorrow.” Yuuri grinned, finally breaking away to bid him goodbye before heading inside with a small wave. Heading straight to his room, Yuuri quickly changed into some loose clothes and crawled under his covers, not bothering to check his phone before falling asleep.

 


 

The next time that Yuuri actually remembered to check his phone for any messages wasn’t until his third period the following day; waiting until the teacher had put some questions on the board at the front, Yuuri glanced around to make sure everyone was working before slipping his phone out of his pocket and checking his notifications. Surely enough, he had in fact missed many, many messages from Niki and he eagerly opened them with a high level of discreetness.

 

A soft giggle escaped Yuuri’s lips as he read through the messages and he quickly covered it up by faking a cough and hoped no one had noticed.

(They hadn’t.)

With one hand gripping his phone and the other holding a pen in his hand to at least look like he was doing the work, Yuuri typed a reply as fast as his thumb would let him.

Given the time difference, Yuuri didn’t expect a reply for a while, knowing that Niki probably wouldn’t be awake for at least another hour or so. Despite knowing this, he still couldn’t help but feel a slight twinge of disappointment at the fact that he had to wait a long time before they could continue the conversation. Saying that, Yuuri also knew that it wasn’t really his place to complain, given that Niki had to wait the entire time that he was sleeping, as well as sleeping himself before checking his phone for a new message.

With a slight shake of his head, Yuuri tried to dismiss the thoughts and brought his attention back to the work in front of him, remembering that he had actual work to do if he wanted to pass his maths exam in the months to come.

Not even ten minutes later, he found himself growing irritated when one his calculations refused to work, only displaying an error symbol on the calculator and his mind began to wander once again. He wondered how Niki felt about maths, did he love it?

Did he hate it?

Was he indifferent? 

What was his favourite subject?

Yuuri understood that it was silly to want to know these things; he knew that Niki was just a friend who happened to live thousands of miles away and he would probably never actually meet. This pointless trivia about his life was exactly that: pointless.

Despite knowing that though, Yuuri couldn’t help himself from wanting to know more anyway, he felt the need to find out all about Niki and his life. Yuuri had always been able to push down his curiosity about most things, to shrug it off and accept the fact that there many things that he simply just wasn’t supposed to know – but this was different. His brain refused to let it go, wouldn’t be satisfied until he knew Niki not just as a friend, but as a best friend, someone who he could recite random facts about, feeling proud just because they were in his head in the first place.

It was impossible to deny the air of mystery that settled over Yuuri when he was texting Niki, be it his hesitance to share his real name, or his dismissal of his ice skating ability, Yuuri knew that there was something that ignited his curiosity each time. Niki was like the small spark that came from lighting a match, and each time they spoke it only got bigger and Yuuri knew that one day it would burst into a flame and he was excited, he was so excited to find out everything.

A small part of him was aware that maybe he was only so overly invested due to his nationality, Niki being Russian meant that Yuuri could gain an insight into the country that Viktor was from, maybe even learn a few extra things about the culture that weren’t so well known. By no means did that mean that he would be able to say Viktor and Niki experienced the same things or could mirror each other, Yuuri was just curious. Besides, he still enjoyed talking to Niki anyway, over the last few weeks they had only grown closer and even if he was from France, England or literally any other country at all, he wouldn’t trade their newly blossoming friendship for the world.

Oblivious to how much time had passed since he digressed from his original math problem, Yuuri was only jolted back to reality by the ringing of the bell and Phichit’s voice breaking him from his thoughts.

“Yuuri!” Phichit wrapped a hand around his arm as he pulled him from his seat and through the door of the classroom, clearly eager to get to the dinner hall and with a roll of his eyes, he followed behind with a chuckle.

“Yeah, yeah, I get it,” He shook his head in amusement before gently working his way out of his friend’s grip, “I’m coming.”

The hall was bustling with students as usual, and after managing to navigate their way through the wave of people, the pair finally had a tray of food in their hands and made their way over to their regular table. Noticing the empty seat beside Daichi, Yuuri placed his food on the table before dumping his bag at his feet, sliding into the space while Phichit took the seat opposite.

“Hey.” He greeted his boyfriend a small smile, nudging him gently with his shoulder as he began to break up the rice with his chopsticks.

“Hey, you,” Daichi returned the smile, moving his hand under the table to intertwine it with Yuuri’s and give it a brief squeeze.

“How was class?” He asked, shifting slightly in his seat to face Yuuri at a better angle as he began to take bites of his lunch.

“Yeah, it was okay I guess. About as interesting as maths can get.” He chuckled awkwardly, not even entirely sure which topic they had been doing as a result of being so distracted.

Rather than expanding on it, Daichi just nodded in understanding before proceeding to tell Yuuri about how his mandatory sport class had gone, complaining about how it was a waste of time when he could be studying for something he would actually receive a qualification in.

Yuuri bit his lip and had to resist the urge to roll his eyes; there was being dedicated to academic success, and then there was Daichi being dedicated to academic success - which was on an entirely different spectrum. If he was being honest, Yuuri was grateful for the weekly sport class, his skating meant that he had been able to increase his strength and stamina and so the activities they were forced to do never really put a strain on him. Not only that, but it offered the opportunity to relax and forget about the need to understand the structure of plant cells or the ins and outs of trigonometric graphs.

(Of course he’d never admit to that though.)

“Ugh those lessons are the worst,” He lied, sighing for an even more believable approach and Daichi nodded in agreement, “at least after this year you’ll be at university and won’t have to do it ever again.”

That seemed to be the right thing to say, judging by the way a smile tugged at Daichi’s lips and his eyes lit up as he turned to Yuuri once again, squeezing his hand happily, “You’re right, not long now.”

They had never discussed what would happen to their relationship once he moved away for the next stage in his life, Yuuri was in no rush to break up and throw it all away without even trying, and assumed that they would try long distance until he joined Daichi the following year. When he looked down at their joined hands and saw the smile that he put on his boyfriend’s face, Yuuri realised how content he was.

(Until his phone went off.)

The loud buzz and chime of the device rang out from his pocket, and he saw the flash of confusion that washed over Daichi’s face as he pulled his hand free to retrieve it. Upon seeing the red icon with the white lightning bolt, Yuuri unlocked his phone before even bothering to read it, already knowing that it was from Niki and he had to force down the smile that was threatening to spread over his face.

 

 

Yuuri cleared his throat and nonchalantly placed his phone face down on the table before continuing to eat his meal, not missing the way Daichi was staring at him with furrowed eyebrows.

“Everything alright?” He asked, grabbing Yuuri’s attention as he turned back to him and nodded causally.

“Yeah.” He said dismissively, hoping that he wouldn’t press the matter and after a moment of consideration, Daichi seemed to drop it, shaking his head as he began to tell Yuuri a new story about his day.

It was short lived however, when his phone buzzed again only moment later and Yuuri inwardly cringed, feeling the way Daichi’s grip tightened slightly and he didn’t bother to look at it, knowing it would only irritate him.

Only when it continued to buzz successively did he dare to reach for it with an apologetic smile, glancing at the screen only to be met with a scoff from Daichi.

“That’s funny,” he began, his eyes narrowed and a fake look of confusion on his face, Yuuri only stared at him and waited for him to continue, trying to ignore the hint of hostility in his tone, “I don’t remember sending you a text, so who on Earth could be messaging you?”

Trying not to roll his eyes, Yuuri licked his lips and cleared his throat, continuing to unlock his phone to show Daichi that he was being ridiculous, “I do have friends, you’re not the only person I text.”

“You’re right sorry,” Daichi nodded and Yuuri thought that he was being understanding, but he leaned over the table and glanced at the other people surrounding them, “Alright guys, who’s texting Yuuri?”

“Cut it out.” Yuuri glared at him, yanking on his hand with irritation laced in his tone, but he’d already caught the attention of the people at the table.

When he was only greeted with silence and looks of confusion, Daichi returned his attention back to Yuuri with an expectant look and began to count on his fingers, “So I didn’t text you, neither did any of your friends, and your parents are busy at work, so who’re you really talking to?”

“Why does it matter?” He deflected casually, not seeing why it was such a big deal, as he bit his tongue to stop himself from saying something he’d regret. There was a time and place to discuss this, and the middle of the dinner hall at lunch was neither of them.

“Because I’m your boyfriend.” He scoffed, looking at Yuuri incredulously, and Yuuri glanced around but their friends had thankfully engaged in their own conversations again, and the only person paying attention was Phichit.

“What? So I’m not allowed to talk to other people?” Yuuri questioned, knitting his eyebrows together as he locked his phone and put it back on the table; if Daichi was going to be rude then he wasn’t going to just sit there.

“No, don’t twist my words.” Daichi sighed, rolling his eyes in frustration, “Of course you’re allowed friends but it’s not too hard to answer a simple question of who your friend is.”

Yuuri’s phone decided to buzz again at that second and before he could even say anything, Daichi had snatched it from the table and held it away from Yuuri as he looked at the screen.

“Hey, give me my phone back! What the hell?” He reached out for it, growing annoyed as it was held out of his reach, “That’s private.”

“You shouldn’t keep secrets from me Yuuri.” Daichi tutted, shaking his head before Yuuri finally managed to take his phone back before he could read anything more than the name on the screen.

“What kind of a name is ‘makka’?” He remarked, a slight look of amusement on his face and Yuuri wanted to wipe it off, but instead he just sighed and turned his phone off, dumping it into his bag and returning to eating his meal.

“It’s a username.” He mumbled, hoping that the situation would diffuse because he really did not have the energy to argue over something so small.

“A userna- wait. Is that Niki?”

Knowing that it was pointless to keep avoiding it, and it was possible that admitting to it might put Daichi at ease, he nodded nonchalantly, “Yeah.”

“Why is he texting you while you’re at school?” He asked hesitantly, confusion leaking from his tone and Yuuri only shrugged and gave a basic reply.

“Time differences.”

“What? Does he not understood how they work?” Daichi pressed, not dropping his gaze from Yuuri’s face.

“No, it not that, its just…” Yuuri trailed off, not really sure what to say and he began to cough awkwardly, hoping that he could just change the subject but Daichi opened his mouth to keep talking about it.

“-Hey Yuuri,” Phichit interrupted, clearly noticing how uncomfortable he was and Yuuri had never been so grateful for his presence, “What did we have to analyse again for the physics project?”

Taking the free pass, Yuuri eagerly began to explain the project to his friend, repeating everything he had told him on their first session together in detail, just as an excuse to have something else to think about and ignore the tension hanging between himself and his boyfriend.

Apparently he had a lot to talk about, because by the time he was finished, the bell rang less than a minute after and he quickly gathered his things and headed to the door with Phichit to make their way to their next period.

The two of them walked in silence for a few moments before Phichit finally broke it by clearing his throat, “So…what was all that about?”

“I have no idea, he’s not usually like that.” Yuuri sighed, running a hand through his hair as they walked, beginning to worry his lip between his teeth.

“Well, it was really weird,” Phichit commented, and Yuuri noticed the way he glaned over to him to see how he was feeling, “I think he was jealous, like if it wasn’t already obvious.”

“I know, but he has no reason to be.” Yuuri groaned, throwing his head back in frustration, “Niki and I are just friends – and he lives in Russia.”

“Yeah, but does Daichi know that?” Phichit questioned, turning to face Yuuri as he held the door open for him, stepping into the connecting corridor.

Yuuri opened his mouth before closing it again, thinking for a moment, did Daichi know that? He tried to think back to the few times that Niki had come up in conversation and couldn’t remember whether or not he had actually mentioned it.

“I’ll take your hesitation as a no, you should tell him. Communication can do a world of good”

“Yeah, I know.” Yuuri nodded in agreement, rubbing the nape of his neck with his hand; he couldn’t help feeling slightly stupid that he hadn’t assured Daichi there was absolutely nothing to worry about, “I’ll talk to him tonight.”

 


 

After a long day, Yuuri was glad to be home and headed straight to his bedroom, quickly changing into more comfortable clothes, before dumping his laptop onto his bed and switching it on.

While waiting for it to power up, Yuuri retrieved his phone from his backpack and held down the power button, tapping the case as the logo lit up on the screen. Knowing that he and Daichi needed to communicate, he selected his contact and began to type out a message, hoping that they could smooth things over and put their miscommunication behind them.

 

With a satisfied smile and a weight lifted from his chest, Yuuri made his way downstairs, luckily bumping into his parents almost straight away, “Hey, mama, would it be okay if Daichi had dinner with us tonight?”

“Of course, you know that boy is always welcome in our home.” She smiled warmly, almost looking confused by the question before she playfully swatted him on the head, “You don’t even need to ask.”

“Thank you mama, do you need any help with anything?” He questioned, wanting to be helpful as possible, mainly as a way to procrastinate the pile of homework waiting for him that he was yet to even glance at. Unfortunately, his mother only shook her head and shooed him upstairs, assuring him that they would manage without him for one night.

However, his dismissal from his chores did not necessarily mean he had to do his homework, and upon returning to his bedroom he only pulled his laptop onto his lap and opened up his files, beginning to scroll aimlessly through them to convince himself that he was being productive.

His eyes widened when he saw the thumbnail for a video, and belatedly remembered the promise he’d made to send it to Niki. Bringing his palm to his face, he sighed before grabbing his phone from where it was laying on the bed, opening up the app to be greeted with new messages from hours ago.

 

Yuuri couldn’t hold back his chuckles as he read through the messages, making a mental note that it was dangerous to let Niki have one sided conversations, because he just kept talking – although it was extremely entertaining to read the aftermath.

 

 

With his task complete, Yuuri returned to his mindless scrolling, checking his phone every so often to keep an eye on the time, and when five o’clock finally rolled around, he threw on some hair gel - knowing Daichi liked his hair like that – and headed downstairs to wait for the sound of his car pulling up.

At exactly 16:59, Yuuri heard the hum of an engine and the slam of a car door, and at exactly 17:00 he heard the tapping at the door, signalling the arrival of his boyfriend.

Opening it with a polite greeting, he was relieved to notice that there was little or no tension between them, and smiled when he was pulled into a warm embrace, wrapping his arms around him as he rested his forehead on his shoulder.

“I’m sorry.” He mumbled into the soft fabric of Daichi’s jacket, burying his head further into the material. Yuuri heard a light chuckle and felt hands soothingly rubbing small circles into his back.

“It’s alright, I’m sorry too. Let’s just move on, yeah?” He suggested, breaking their embrace and moving his hands to rest on Yuuri’s shoulders, giving him the opportunity to look into his eyes and show that he meant it.

Yuuri was all too eager to do just that and he nodded in agreement, unable to stop the smile tugging at his lips, which did not go unnoticed.

“There’s that beautiful smile.” Daichi returned the gesture, his eyes soft and gentle as he brought a hand up to Yuuri’s face and faintly rubbed his thumb over his cheekbone with a featherlike touch, “Let’s go inside?”

With a nod, the two broke apart and joined at the hands instead, Yuuri leading him to the table they had sat at together so many times before. Daichi – being the perfect boyfriend that he was – greeted each of Yuuri’s family members with a bow before taking his seat beside Yuuri and played with his fingers under the table while they waited for Hiroko to bring the meal out.

It didn’t take long, and soon enough they were all chatting over a delicious home cooked meal, each of them sharing stories about their day and Yuuri found himself enjoying the atmosphere that had settled over them.

(Until his father spoke up.)

“So, Daichi,” He began, causing everyone to turn their attention to said boy as Toshiya pointed a chopstick at him curiously, “how is your final year treating you?”

“Very well, thank you,” He cleared his throat, shooting a friendly smile before continuing, “It’s a lot of hard work, but I know it’ll be worth it in the end so I don’t mind.”

Toshiya hummed in response, nodding his head in understanding, before jerking his head towards Yuuri with a fond smile, “I’m glad to hear it, maybe you can rub off on our boy. He needs a good influence like you in his life.”  

“Thank you, sir. I’m flattered you think of me as such.” He bowed his head respectfully, earning a look of approval from Yuuri’s father, and a roll of the eyes from Yuuri himself.

“Yes, well you’ve given me good reason to think so.” He waved his hand gently, Toshiya was a man who expected and gave respect, but did not feel the need for such formality between himself and his son’s boyfriend, “Have you applied for any universities yet?”

“Yes sir, I’ve applied for eleven and received conditional offers from ten.” He bragged happily, and Yuuri stopped himself from rolling his eyes again, because if he was caught his family wouldn’t be particularly pleased. So instead, he feigned interest in what Daichi was saying, nodding as he spoke, “My first choice is Kyushu University however, because it’s so close to home that I can get the experience of higher education without being too far from my family – and Yuuri of course.”

His mother smiled at that, looking between the two of them softly as a blush dusted Yuuri’s cheeks, although he knew that it was only practicality rather sentimentality, nevertheless he offered a brief smile to Daichi before continuing to eat his food.

“This’ll be you this time next year Yuuri,” His father commented, now drawing the attention to him as he swallowed and stared down at the table shyly, “have you had any more thoughts about what you want to do?”

Yes, I want to pursue competitive figure skating as a career; funny thing, I’ve been doing it for years but I didn’t tell you and now I’m too awkward to say anything, so I guess I’ll just do whatever seems like a good idea and study a degree I don’t really care about to go into a job I hate.

“Not really.”

“You don’t have long left now Yuuri, you need to give it some thought.” His mother cut in before his father could, assuring him that it was okay as long as he could decide before his final year. Feeling grateful for being supported rather than criticised, he allowed himself to relax and finally look up to meet his mother’s kind gaze.

“I will.”

Yuuri was bored of talking about school, about university, about planning his future out at the age of sixteen. It was daunting and scary and he didn’t even want to think about it; he wasn’t sure how Daichi was so certain about what he was going to do for the next seventy years, but Yuuri knew that he had no idea if it wasn’t figure skating.

Thankfully, his parents decided this was not the time to interrogate him about his future and instead continued to engage in conversation with his boyfriend instead, asking questions about his course. Rather than really paying attention, Yuuri zoned out and stared at the walls, scanning his eyes over the photographs that he’d seen for the last few years scattered across each of them. His chest warmed upon seeing the one his mother had taken of him and Vicchan, he was only young in the photo, having only just adopted the pup and his smile was vibrant as he hugged his new friend close in a tight embrace.

There were many other photos situated around the room, the majority of which featured Yuuri and Mari, adding to the family friendly vibe that the onsen promoted and brought a smile to Yuuri’s face. The newest addition, however, was a small photograph of Yuuri and Daichi holding hand before their first date – something Hiroko had insisted taking, much to the embarrassment of her son.

It was by no means a bad photo, but Yuuri couldn’t help but feel like it was boring, basic, and didn’t even look like they were having fun. He wanted his joy to flow out of the photo, but it only came out as flat and almost fake, which grinded on him because he did enjoy Daichi’s company, despite what the picture showed.

“-Yuuri?” Mari’s gentle voice tore him back to their conversation and his eyes quickly whipped away from the photo and to her face where she had an expectant look on her face.

“Yes?” He asked innocently, hoping that he could hide the fact that he hadn’t been listening to a word for the last ten minutes; if Mari caught him out on it, she didn’t say anything about it and only shook her head in amusement.

“I asked if you could help me wash the dishes before you go to Daichi’s.” She jerked her head towards the kitchen, rising to her feet and beginning to pile up the empty bowls and motioning for Yuuri to do the same.

It took the two of them only a few moments to carry all of them to the kitchen and Mari flicked on the tap, tapping her fingers on the edge of the counter as she waited patiently for the sink to fill up. Yuuri leaned against the one adjacent and watched as his sister rolled up her sleeves, ready to begin washing the pottery.

“You alright, Yuuri?” She asked, turning the tap off as she started to wipe the first bowl, looking over her shoulder at a very confused looking Yuuri.

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” He chuckled awkwardly, taking the wet bowl from her hand and beginning to dry it with a cloth before neatly stacking it the open cupboard.

“Well, you seemed out of it at dinner,” She began, glancing at him before clearing her throat and continuing, “when dad asked about college you looked really uncomfortable.”

“Well yeah, I’m only sixteen, it’s scary to think about what I want to do for the rest of my life.” Yuuri scoffed, shaking his head dismissively but apparently Mari didn’t accept that as a good enough explanation.

“So there’s nothing you want to do? Not one thing pops into your head?” She asked sceptically, now fully turning so that she was facing her little brother and Yuuri averted his eyes and gave a half hearted shrug.

“Not even ice skating?” She asked with a smirk, not missing the way Yuuri’s head snapped up and his eyes were wide, looking like a deer caught in the headlights, his mouth opening and closing nervously.

“Relax Yuuri, I know you haven’t told mum and dad – although I don’t understand why – but I won’t if you don’t want them to know.” She assured him, dropping her wet cloth into the sink and wrapping her arms around Yuuri instead.

“How...,” Yuuri swallowed, noticing his mouth become dry from nervousness, “how did you know?”

“Oh Yuuri, you’re my little brother, you’re not as secretive as you like to think.” She chuckled, ruffling his hair with a fond smile, “For one, you were heading to the gym hours before its opening time so that was pretty obvious. But I bumped into Yuuko’s parents in the town years ago and they told me how much fun she was having with you at the Ice Castle.”

Yuuri pulled away quickly, staring at her with his mouth agape, “You’ve known for years?”

“Yeah, like a year after you first started going.” She laughed again, patting his shoulder and smoothing out his messy hair affectionately, noticing the way he was beginning to worry his lip and wring his hands together.

“If you’ve known all along, why didn’t you say anything?” He wondered out loud, his eyebrows pulled together and a puzzled look painted on his features as he waited for a response.

Mari only shrugged casually in response, “I figured you had a reason not to tell me, which I still don’t understand, but it’s your business.”

“Right, well thank you, I guess.” Yuuri rubbed the back of his neck with his hand, looking up at his sister sheepishly; he felt as though the weight hanging over him had eased slightly after not having to hide the secret from one more person.

“For the record, you’re really good, so if you wanted to pursue it, I’d support you.” Before Yuuri could even ask how she could possibly know that, she only rolled her eyes with an amused smile, “Once I found out, I wanted to see what the big deal was, Yuuko’s parents let me watch from the window in the office so I wouldn’t scare you.”

With a long sigh, Yuuri placed his head in his hands and shook his head from side to side in disbelief, wondering how on earth he’d been so oblivious all of these years, “Aren’t you mad? That I lied to your face all those times when I said I was going to the gym?”

“Don’t be silly, no I wasn’t mad. Confused, yes, but never mad.” She assured him, her features pulled together in thought, but if she was going to ask for an explanation she changed her mind and gave him a playful kick instead, “Okay now get out and go to your darling boyfriend’s house.”

“I thought you needed my help?” He questioned, gesturing to the many bowls sitting on the counter that still needed to be cleaned, but Mari only shook her head and started shooing him out of the room.

“I lied, I just wanted to see if you were okay.”

“Thank you, Mari, yeah I’m fine.” He grinned, quickly giving her a tight hug before pulling away and heading out of the kitchen to find Daichi, who was still chatting with his parents and sharing some sort of joke with them.

“I’m just going to grab my laptop and some DVDs.” He gestured his thumb towards the stairs when Daichi finally met his gaze and with a small nod he rushed up to his room, quickly shoving it into its case and doing last minute touches of spraying aftershave on his neck and wrists and combing his now messy hair.

Slipping his phone into his pocket, Yuuri pulled on a warm jacket and threw his laptop bag over his shoulder, before making his way downstairs where Daichi was now patiently waiting for him by the door, his car keys in hand.

Quickly shoving his feet into his sneakers, Yuuri tucked the laces into the sides while balancing with the help of a hand gripping Daichi’s shoulder. After saying goodbye to his family, the two of them headed out of Yutopia and climbed into the familiar car, heading down the street less than a minute later.

The two of them sat in a comfortable silence on the short drive to his house, and Yuuri leaned his head against the window, watching the streetlamps pass every few seconds as they flickered to life in the darkening sky. It was not yet seven o’clock but they were well into autumn by now, and that meant early nights, much to the dismay of Yuuri who enjoyed staying out late just wandering the streets of Hasetsu, or even the beach.

Before he knew it, the car had pulled up in front of Daichi’s home and the couple clambered out, Yuuri waiting on the sidewalk for his boyfriend to lock the doors and walk around to meet him from his side. Grabbing his hand, Daichi lead him towards to front entrance and easily unlocked it with a swift turn of his key, closing it behind them as they stepped inside.

“Do you want to go wait upstairs? I just need to turn the alarm off and I’ll grab some drinks or whatever.” Daichi gestured towards the staircase a couple metres away, not bothering to wait for a reply as he headed into the next room and Yuuri quickly removed his shoes before heading into Daichi’s room and placing his laptop on the bed.

After typing his password in, it instantly loaded up from where he had last left off, and Yuuri internally berated himself for not turning it off properly and only letting it go into sleep mode. Not bothering to close his tabs, he clicked the media player and chuckled to himself when he saw that he still had the disk of ‘The King and the Skater’ from when Phichit had forced him to watch it together.

“What’s funny?” Daichi asked sweetly as he entered the room, balancing two bottles of soda and cups in his hands.

“Just this film Phichit made me watch,” Yuuri smiled fondly, pointing to the screen, “it’s about ice skating, so obviously it’s his favourite.”

“Is it good?” He asked, placing the two cups on his bedside table and filling each of them up, before handing one to Yuuri as he sat close beside him.

“Erm yeah, I liked it.” Yuuri took in his hand, smiling gratefully before bringing it to his lips and taking a long sip, very aware of the close proximity between them.

“Do you want to watch it again?” Daichi suggested kindly, wrapping an arm around Yuuri’s waist and pulling him closer to the top of the bed so they could lean against the pillows resting on headboard.  

“Sure, I don’t mind.” Yuuri shrugged, the heat of the hand on his waist burning against his skin under the thin fabric of his shirt; leaning forward slightly, he tapped play and Daichi flicked off one of the lamps to make the room dimmer and reduce the glare on the screen.

After twenty minutes of sitting up straight, Yuuri felt himself growing uncomfortable and shifted slightly, leaning against Daichi instead, resting his head on the other boy’s shoulder, and let out a content sigh as he felt hands running through his hair soothingly.

Not even half way through the film, he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket and Yuuri was unsure of whether or not to check it. Glacing up at Daichi, he noticed that he was completely focused on the film playing on the laptop in front of them, and so Yuuri slowly pulled it out of his jacket and unlocked the device, opening the app instantly and turning the brightness to the lowest setting. With another quick glance, Daichi showed no signs of being aware of Yuuri being on his phone and he began to read his messages.

Unaware of how much time had passed, Yuuri failed to notice that the film had finished and the tab had closed itself, instead displaying those he hadn’t closed earlier and Daichi’s eyes were scanning over them. He also failed to notice that his boyfriend was curious and had clicked the folder titled ‘Skating Videos’ with furrowed eyebrows.

“Yuuri,” He instantly tore Yuuri’s attention from his phone and instead to the videos he was pointing at with a look of confusion; as Yuuri realised his mistake, he felt his stomach drop as the blood drained from his face, “What are these?”

Chapter Text

Yuuri had never liked confrontations – hated them, in fact; so when he sat beside Daichi on the bed, the question lingering in the air between them, he could feel the nervous energy begin to creep up on him. His stomach felt as though it was becoming heavier by the second, a twinge of dread igniting from the centre of his chest as he licked his lips and began to rack his brain for an answer.

Of course, the answer was simple really. They were skating videos, what else did they look like?

But Yuuri knew that it was only one question, one which would be the catalyst for even more: since when did you skate; how long for; who taught you; why didn’t you tell me?

Wringing his hands together, Yuuri finally brought his eyes back up to meet Daichi’s confused ones, his eyebrows pulled tightly together with a puzzled look as he waited expectantly for his response.

He had been lying to Daichi for months – or omitting certain facts, as he preferred to think of it – and as the tension sat heavily between them, he found that he was unable to break the habit. With a shake of his head and a small smile of reassurance, he gently pulled the laptop into his lap and waved a hand in dismissal.

“It’s nothing.” He lied smoothly, adjusting his glasses on the bridge of his nose as he returned his attention to the screen, hoping to avoid Daichi’s piercing gaze.

A sigh from the other boy made him cringe, reluctantly tearing his eyes away to be met with a look of annoyance, Daichi cleared his throat; his stare not softening, but instead morphing into one of heavy suspicion as he repeated his question.

“Yuuri, what are those?

“I already told you, they’re nothing.” Yuuri couldn’t stop himself from rolling his eyes, hoping that if he feigned nonchalance that Daichi would just let it go; after all, he probably wouldn’t even find it interesting and would brush it off.

Apparently he had no intention of doing so, and before Yuuri could even say no, Daichi had pulled the laptop from Yuuri’s grip and was playing the video. As much as Yuuri wanted to stop it, to close the tab and refuse to show him, he knew that it had always been inevitable that he would find out, and making a big deal out of it would only work against him. With a nervous cough, he sat shyly beside him and focused on Daichi’s expressions, attempting to gage his reaction as he watched it.

Although it was less than three minutes long, each second that passed seemed to drag infinitely, and his hands began to feel slightly clammy, noticing that Daichi’s eyebrows were still knitted and he had an unreadable expression painted on his face.

Once he could no longer hear the tell-tale sounds of blades carving into the ice, Yuuri knew the video had stopped and Daichi finally met his gaze with narrowed eyes - although to his surprise, they did not hold any anger, only confusion.

“Why were you being so secretive?” He asked curiously, passing the laptop back to him with an amused chuckle escaping his lips as he did so, “They’re just videos of you skating.”

A small flicker of relief washed over him as he realised that Daichi was not hurt that he hadn’t told him, and he allowed himself to relax as he exhaled, offering a sheepish smile, “I don’t know, I guess I just felt guilty for not telling you.”

Yuuri’s admittal seemed to only puzzle Daichi further, as he shook his head and scoffed gently, “Why would you? It’s just a hobby; everyone does things in their free time.”

He leaned over to take one of Yuuri’s hands in his own and squeezing it softly, while his other one smoothed out the creases that had formed on his brow line. For some reason, he thought that Yuuri would appreciate a joke, and with a smirk tugging at his lips, he chuckled, “As long as it doesn’t interfere with your schoolwork.”

The temporary relief Yuuri had felt was abruptly shattered, and replaced with disappointment and realisation. Daichi hadn’t been mad because he didn’t take him seriously, he thought that ice skating was just something he did when he felt like it – not a burning passion that consumed him to the point of wanting to dedicate his life to it.

Yuuri’s smile quickly faded, his eyes drooping as an ache resurfaced in his chest; with a faked laugh, he peeled Daichi’s hands off him and ran a hand through his dishevelled hair to hide his hurt, “Yeah, don’t worry, why would skating ever affect my work?”

In lieu of speaking, Daichi only smiled at Yuuri, seemingly oblivious to his change in mood and wrapped him in an embrace, changing the subject to what film they should watch next. Yuuri tried to hide his bitterness when he answered Daichi’s questions on the options, giving noncommittal hums as he nodded or shook his head.

Half way into some cheesy comedy that Yuuri couldn’t care less about, he felt Daichi shift on the bed and draw closer to him, resting his head on his shoulder; being in the foul mood that he was, Yuuri had to resist the urge to shake him off, knowing it was petty and he was probably just overreacting.

Instead, he just ignored it, not wanting to spark up new friction between them, especially while he was still feeling downbeat by Daichi’s words and would react harshly if provoked. As the film dragged on, he found that the anger had dissipated slightly, and as he felt the gentle rise and fall of Daichi’s chest as he leaned against him, he tried to push away the sting that he had left behind.

Evidently, he didn’t manage to dismiss his hurt, when Daichi decided to shift once again so that their faces were facing each other, only a few centimetres apart. The glimmer in his eyes was something Yuuri recognised, and as Daichi began to lean in to connect their lips, he pushed him away with an irritated grumble, folding his arms across his chest as he moved to sit up.

“What’s wrong?” Daichi questioned, pushing himself from his position so that he was level with Yuuri, still as oblivious as ever to how his words had grinded on his boyfriend, and it only served to annoy Yuuri more.

When he didn’t answer, Daichi seemed to take it as a sign for him to try again, and when he caught Yuuri off guard by pressing their lips together without warning, he was shoved backwards and met with wide eyes as Yuuri wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“What was that for?” He asked in frustration, not understanding why Daichi thought it was a good idea, when he clearly didn’t; he only received a scoff in response as Daichi shook his head with a huff.

“Don’t be like that, Yuuri,” he began, reaching out to take his hands gently in his own once again, trying to pull him closer, only to be cut off when he was pushed away once again.

“Get off me.” Yuuri snapped, not wanting to receive affection when he was still experiencing a jumble of emotions, his temporary resentment uprearing its head again. Beneath his anger, he knew that he was not being particularly fair, after all Daichi didn’t know he was so invested in skating, and so why would he know why he was so affected by his dismissal of it? Nevertheless, as he stared at his boyfriend’s face, who looked as if Yuuri had done the worst thing in the world by pushing him away, he found it harder and harder to supress the bubbling emotions.

“Why?” Daichi questioned, and the fact that he wanted an answer rather than just accepting it pushed Yuuri even further; trying to ignore it, he took a deep breath and attempted to push the irritation away.

“I’m just not in the mood, okay?” He hoped it would be enough of an answer, and the way Daichi’s eyes softened, and a look of understanding dawned on him, he nodded and seemingly dropped it.

“Oh right, sorry,” He apologised, looking slightly embarrassed, but only seconds later, a flash of confusion reappeared on his face, and he drew his eyebrows together, “Wait, are you angry at me?”

“What? Why on Earth would I be angry with you? I mean, it’s not like you just brushed off something I love as nothing but a silly hobby in the way of my grades.” Yuuri couldn’t stop the malice in his tone as the sarcasm dripped off his tongue, permeating the air with a new-found tension as Daichi gave him a look of disbelief.

“What, you mean you care more about ice dancing than your future?” He scoffed incredulously, and the way he said it as if it was completely ridiculous ignited something within Yuuri, as he rose to his feet, not wanting to sit so close to him during their conflict.

“First of all,” He began, venom seeping from his words as he lifted a hand, beginning to count on his fingers, “It’s not ‘ice dancing’, it’s figure skating. And second of all, what if this is my future? Not everyone wants to go to university and get stuck in a dead-end job for the rest of their life.”

Daichi was silent for a few seconds, blinking several times as he took in what Yuuri was saying, before a look which was morphed between amusement and doubt washed over him, “Yuuri, come on. You can’t be serious.”

A slight gasp escaped Yuuri’s lips at the clear denial of his aspirations, and he ran a hand through his hair with a nervous chuckle, trying to smooth over the maliciousness he wanted to let out, “Why not?”

“What do you mean ‘why not’?” Daichi asked, perplexed, “It’s much more secure if you go down the academic route-“

“-oh my god,” Yuuri cut him off with a groan, running a hand down his face as he threw his head back, “Do you ever stop? All you ever talk about is school and grades! It’s school this, school that, university this, university that. That’s boring Daichi; I don’t want to dedicate my life to sitting in a room learning about god knows what all day every day – I feel like I’m in a relationship with a career advisor rather than an eighteen-year-old boy half the time!”

“Yuuri, you know I’m only trying to help, I just want you to have a safe future and getting a degree will help you do that. I don’t see why you’re acting like this.”  To his credit, Daichi had remained significantly calmer than Yuuri, trying to help him see reason, and the concern in his eyes helped to dampen the fire burning in Yuuri and he let out a long sigh, hiding his head in his hands as he shook it.

“I knew this would happen.” Yuuri mumbled, finally lifting his head up to stare at the ceiling, not yet ready to face Daichi, “That’s why I never told you, I hoped you would support me, but apparently, it’s stupid.”

“It’s not stupid, Yuuri.” Daichi admitted quietly, although Yuuri could tell that he clearly didn’t think that, and was only telling him what he thought he wanted to hear, “I’m just being realistic.”

“You don’t believe in me.” Yuuri stated, hurt flashing across his features as he turned to him, “You only think that university is a better option because you don’t think I’m capable of succeeding in skating, right?”

“Yuuri, stop it. I just mean that it’s difficult to make a name for yourself, and if you can’t do that then you won’t have an income, and then what? How will you pay bills, how will you live?” Yuuri knew that Daichi was just being realistic, and that he probably was just chasing after a childish fantasy; but the fact that he wasn’t even considering it as an actual career choice stung.

“So you’re saying that I’m not good enough to make a name for myself, that I won’t be able to compare to other skaters?” Although he was aware that he was interpreting Daichi’s words in a way that they were probably not meant, Yuuri found that he was trying to confirm the doubts he had about himself from other people’s eyes. He was laying down his fears in front of his boyfriend, and hoping that he would deny them, that he would reassure him that he could do it if he tried, that he had what it takes – he just wasn’t doing it in a very rational way.

“Oh my god, Yuuri,” Daichi laughed in exasperation, shaking his head as he tried to wrap his head around all of the accusations being thrown at him, “You know that’s not what I’m saying. But how am I supposed to judge whether or not you’re good enough when all I’ve seen is a three-minute clip – recorded in terrible quality – and I didn’t even know you knew how to ice skate until five minutes ago. You never even told me.”

“Can you blame me? I was scared this would happen, I knew that there was always a chance you wouldn’t understand, but I would have thought that if you cared enough, that you would at least try to.” Yuuri knew that it was harsh to claim that Daichi didn’t care about him, all because he was trying to help him find a secure future; but the shock of him finding out when he wasn’t ready had taken its toll on him, and his fear of his passion being brushed under the carpet was clouding his judgement; making it harder for him to think rationally, rather than just saying whatever came to mind.

“Yuuri, of course I care.” Daichi looked only mildly hurt by the accusation, and he shifted on the bed to sit more upright, staring at Yuuri who was still standing across the room from him, “How is anyone meant to help you if you keep it a secret? Have you even shown anyone else? I want to believe in you, but you haven’t exactly given me an opportunity to, when all you do is go out with Phichit.”

“Because Phichit believes in me, who did you think recorded the video?” He threw his hands out in front of him, palms raised to the ceiling as he shot Daichi a look, trying to ignore the irritation that was forming on his boyfriend’s own face, “Niki and Mari do too, so why can’t you?”

Daichi’s face fell at Yuuri’s words, and Yuuri realised too late that it was at the mention of his new Russian friend; a deep frown covered Daichi’s face, his features pulled together in the tell-tale signs of rising anger and he cleared his throat, stare piercing into Yuuri.

“How does Niki - of all people - know?” He asked indignantly, his tone turning cold as his eyes bore holes into Yuuri’s, waiting expectantly for a good explanation. Yuuri swallowed slightly, feeling his heart rate pick up as he noticed how much that slip of information had affected Daichi.

“Why does it matter?” He deflected, knowing that he wouldn’t particularly appreciate the fact that he had sent him a video when he didn’t even know him; obviously Daichi did not think that was an acceptable answer, and his eyes narrowed as he let out a scoff.

“Just answer the question, Yuuri.” His voice was icy, cutting into him and there was no room for argument anymore, so Yuuri just sighed deeply and confessed.

“Fine. I sent him that video, alright?” Yuuri pointed a finger at the accused laptop that was still laying on the bed beside Daichi, running a hand through his hair in nervousness for his reaction.

Wow,” He began, malevolence dripping from his words as his gaze shifted to a glare, “It’s great to hear that you can’t tell your boyfriend about these things, but you’re more than happy to tell some random guy you don’t even know.”

“Because he listens to me!” Yuuri exclaimed, tugging at the sleeves of his shirt in exasperation; he could feel the atmosphere rapidly going downhill, but he also knew that this was the opportunity to let out everything he had bottled up and repair the damage later; Phichit had told him that good communication was the key to a good relationship, so there was no point ignoring the things that were grinding on him, “Niki is actually interested in my hobbies, and doesn’t only focus on ensuring I dedicate my entire life to school.”

“Not this again,” Daichi laughed humourlessly, scrunching his face up in disbelief, “why don’t you date him then?”

What?

Yuuri had come to the realisation that Daichi was not particularly comfortable with his and Niki’s friendship, but that’s all it was – a friendship. The implications of his words didn’t make sense to Yuuri, he had never once given him the impression that he wanted to be in a relationship with Niki, he lived all the way in Russia so the option wasn’t even really there if he had wanted to.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Yuuri shook his head, trying to soften his tone and stare so that Daichi would be more willing to listen to him, “you know I love you.”

Daichi’s expression eased at that, and he parted his lips to speak when a loud and sudden ding interrupted him; Yuuri’s eyes snapped to his phone which was still laying haphazardly on the edge of the bed, far too close to Daichi’s hand.

Before he could react, Daichi had scooped it up into his hand and his expression dropped, dramatically shifting to undiluted anger as he read the message displayed before him; his head abruptly snapped up to meet Yuuri’s worried features, and he spat out the words he had read, “’I can’t wait to see you!’, are you being serious right now Yuuri?”

Daichi threw the phone back onto the bed, not noticing as it bounced and landed harshly on the floor with a thud, before Yuuri could even begin to explain, a barrage of questions were thrown at him, the rapidly building tension beginning to squeeze his chest uncomfortably.

“You’re meeting up with this guy?” He hissed furiously, “Do you take me for some sort of idiot?”

Yuuri knew that the message was completely misleading, that Niki was talking about the video, not literally seeing him; his hands were becoming clammy as he realised he needed to explain – and quickly.

“No, wait let me explain-“

“-no! Stop with your excuses, I’m tired of it.” Daichi cut him off, refusing to listen to Yuuri, and he was becoming increasingly frustrated as he pleaded for him to listen.

“Daichi, please, you’re interpreting it wrong!” He cried out, stepping forward from where he was standing, trying to get closer to him before the argument was unsalvageable.

“Oh, please,” He groaned, throwing his head back with a dry laugh as he rose to his feet and began pacing, “There is no way to interpret this wrong; he said he can’t wait to see you.”

“Yeah, because I said that I would-“

“-this is unbelievable! How long have you been meeting up with him behind my back, huh?” He continued, not even listening to what Yuuri was saying anymore; if he knew that he lived in Russia and there was no way they had - or could - meet up, maybe he would understand, but he wouldn’t even let him speak.

“I haven’t!” Yuuri yelled, his shoulders shaking as he tried to approach Daichi, who hadn’t stopped his movement back and forth the room; gingerly, Yuuri reached his arms out, trying to place them on Daichi’s arms to stop him and get him to listen.

Hands grabbed his own and peeled him away, pushing him away abruptly and Yuuri couldn’t hid the hurt in his features, his lips down turning into a frown.

“Daichi?” He asked softly, his heart sinking as he noticed the way he had become calm, and his eyebrows were pulled together in thought.

“I’m done.” He stated smoothly, his eyes finally meeting Yuuri’s and the meaning of the words sent a chill down his spine.

“Done? What do you mean?” The waver in Yuuri’s voice was impossible to hide, and he shrunk back on himself, taking a few steps as he waited for the blow of confirmation to hit him.

“Us, Yuuri. I’m done with us.” Although he expected it, it didn’t do anything to soften the impact on his heart, twisting it painfully as tears pricked in his eyes.

“W-what?” His voice cracked, but he couldn’t bring himself to care, he was too focused on Daichi’s face, hoping that he would take it back; hoping that he just said it in the heat of the moment and didn’t mean it.

But the way Daichi’s icy stare remained rigid on his face gave Yuuri the confirmation he needed, and it felt like a bucket of cold water was being thrown over him when Daichi spoke, “You heard me Yuuri. We’re done.”

“But…” Yuuri trailed off, knowing that it was pointless to try and change his mind, once Daichi had made a decision, there was no going back.

 “Just get out.” Daichi turned away from Yuuri, refusing to look at him - probably not wanting to see the way his lip was wobbling, and he looked like his world had come crashing down.

With a nod that he couldn’t see, Yuuri furtively sidled past him and grabbed his phone from where it had landed on the floor, slipping it into his pocket. He stood awkwardly by the door for a moment, unsure whether or not he was supposed to say goodbye, but judging by the way Daichi was still staring studiously at the wall to ignore him, he headed down the stairs quickly, slipping his shoes on as fast as he could.

Glancing around the entrance, he took a moment to take in the fact that he would probably never see the inside of this house again, and the ache swelling in his chest only increased as he threw the door open and left, a choked sob escaping his lips.

The sky was dark as Yuuri made his way out of the premises, wincing slightly at the shivers that convulsed through his body; he understood that there was no way Daichi would have driven him home - not when the tension between them was almost suffocating - and honestly, Yuuri felt quite relieved, because he didn’t particularly want to go home. Not while he was like this.

Instead, he made the short journey to the beach, only a ten-minute walk if he kept at a fast pace. He knew that it wasn’t the best idea, but he was too emotional to think, his head was a swirling whirlpool of denial and sorrow and he just wanted somewhere private to let the tears flow freely.

His vision blurred as he walked, and he was quick to wipe away the offending tears with his shirtsleeve; despite the fact that no one would be looking out their window to witness a weeping sixteen-year-old boy walking down the street, he would prefer to at least attempt to keep some of his dignity.

Finally, he saw the steps that lead down to the sand and noticed gratefully that the tide was way out, giving him as much time as he needed to let it all out. Finding a washed-up log less than fifty metres away, he pulled his socks and shoes off, making his way over to it, not wanting to get his jeans covered in sand if it was avoidable.

As the cool sand spread beneath his feet and between his toes, he was painfully reminded of the time he had come with Daichi only weeks ago, walking with him and feeling content after their date. The wound was too fresh and he ran hastily to the log, closing the distance in only a few seconds and collapsing onto it with a whimper, burying his head in his hands.

His shoulders shook heavily as a sob ripped through him, his tears flowing relentlessly as the dam finally broke, no longer trying to hold them back. His hands trembled as he tugged at his hair messy in frustration, trying to clear the static in his head that was making it hard to breathe. He could taste salt on his lips as the tears fell, tasting bitter and it only made him weep more, reminding him of his situation.

It was too painful to know that all the experiences they had together meant nothing now, that he had wasted a chunk of his life on someone who had tossed him aside without even giving him a chance to explain. The routine of speaking to him every day would be cut off; there would be no more greetings at school; no more bowling dates; no more stuffed poodles won for him; no more anything. The realisation sparked a feeling of loneliness that washed over him in an overpowering wave, a tsunami that tore into him without remorse and he lifted his head from his hands, trying to drag air into the lungs that refused to cooperate with him.

With quivering hands, he wiped his eyes and reached into his jacket to retrieve his phone, trying to make out the blurry words as he somehow managed to unlock it and searched for Phichit’s name. A part of him worried that he would be annoyed, or even angry at Yuuri for calling so late, but the more rational part of him pressed the call button and knew that he needed someone, and if there was anyone he could rely on, it was Phichit.

Unsurprisingly, he picked up after only two rings, and his too-cheerful voice painfully juxtaposed the situation.

“Hi, Yuuri!” He greeted happily and Yuuri could almost see the way his lips were upturned in his usual smile as he spoke, unaware of the dejection he was feeling.

Phichit.” Yuuri choked out, his breath hitching as he was plagued by shallow breaths.

“Yuuri, what’s wrong?” The light-heartedness of his tone had vanished, and worry was laced into his words as Yuuri only continued to hyperventilate, desperately trying to force the words to come.

“I-I-“ He was barely able to utter a word before his chest heaved painfully and he whimpered, alerting Phichit that something was definitely wrong and he was quick to react.

“Shh, Yuuri it’s okay, it’s alright. Just take deep breaths for me, okay?” The gentleness of his voice helped to coax Yuuri out from his spiralling thoughts and he focused solely on the sound of it, “Can you tell me what happened?”

Yuuri made an unintelligible sound when he tried to explain, unable to offer any sort of explanation, and Phichit seemed to understand as he reassured him, “It’s alright Yuuri, can you tell me where you are?”

“Th-the b-beach.” He stuttered, strenuously trying to get his breaths to even out, on the other side of the call, he could hear Phichit shifting, followed by the sound of a door opening and closing, and he was so, so grateful for him.

“I’m on my way, I’ll be five minutes. I’ll stay on the line, okay?” Yuuri made a hum of understanding as Phichit continued to speak, counting to and from seven to help Yuuri regulate his breathing as the other boy practically ran to him– if his panting was anything to go by.

Before he knew it, the phone call ended and he heard the shout of his name from down the beach, turning to see a figure sprinting towards him; his breaths were still jerky and harsh, despite the exercises he had done,  Phichit delicately took his hands in his own, placing them on his chest.

“Shh, Yuuri just focus on me, try and match your breathing with mine.” He let out exaggerated breaths to help Yuuri to see and hear them, and he determinedly stared at the rise and fall of Phichit’s chest, forcing his breaths to slow down gradually. After several moments of trying, he had calmed down considerably and his some of the fog clogging his mind began to disperse, making his thoughts easier to process and his vision clearer.

A lingering blanket of heartache remained over him, wrapping him in its embrace and his stomach felt heavy as he slowly began to recover from his panic attack, sporadic hitches catching him off guard every few seconds. Phichit sat patiently beside him, waiting until he got the green light to offer a hug and Yuuri was thankful, still feeling too overwhelmed.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Phichit whispered after a few moments, breaking the silence as Yuuri regained the ability to breathe smoothly, but he only shook his head, biting back to tears that were threatening to rise, too aware of those that had already stained his cheeks.

Phichit only nodded in understanding, silently moving to sit beside Yuuri on the log, the two of them stared out to the ocean, watching as the waves lapped onto the sand with a regularity that was soothing.

As they sat peacefully, Phichit tentatively reached an arm out and placed it over Yuuri’s shoulder, waiting to see his reaction; when Yuuri leaned into the contact, Phichit shifted to face him fully, wrapping both arms around his frame and pulling him close. Rubbing circles into his back, he whispered reassurances to him and Yuuri squeezed his eyes shut, throwing his arms around Phichit and stifling the sobs that tried to resurface.

“If you don’t want to talk about it,” He began, running his fingertips up and down Yuuri’s back gently, “do you want me to walk you home?”

“No!” Yuuri exclaimed, cringing at his outburst and he pulled away from the hug slightly to meet Phichit’s confused gaze, “Sorry, I just mean, they’ll know something happened, and I don’t want to tell them yet.”

“Alright, well I’ll tell you what, you can sleep at mine tonight if you want?” He offered, a kind smile on his face, “My parents are out on a business trip for a few days, and we’re not at school tomorrow so we can stay up as late as you’d like; if you feel like talking about what happened I’m here to listen.”

“Thank you.” Yuuri whispered, burying his head in Phichit’s shoulder as he resumed tracing shapes on his back with a fond smile.

“It’s alright, and Yuuri, whatever it is, papa Phichit will take care of it, don’t worry.” A small giggle bubbled in his throat at the name and he shook his head, a teary smile trying to make an appearance.

“What? Do you not like the nickname?” He pouted, his tone full of amusement as he teased him, “Would you prefer daddy Phichit?”

Yuuri pulled away and freed himself, giving him access to playfully hit him on the arm with a light punch, unable to supress the small smile playing on his lips.

“There’s that smile.” Phichit grinned, his eyes lighting up joyously as he prodded the small dimples in Yuuri’s cheeks; rising to his feet, he offered an outstretched hand to him, “Come on, let’s get you warm.”

Yuuri hadn’t noticed the way he was shivering, but at the mention of it, he slipped back into his shoes, pulling his thin jacket tightly around himself and laced his fingers between Phichit’s, feeling his teeth begin to chatter as a chilly breeze swept over them.

With his free hand, he unlocked his phone, sending a text to Mari to let her know that he was no longer staying at Daichi’s house - also giving her a heads up that he would need to talk to her about it all tomorrow.

 

 

 

The walk to Phichit’s house was short and sweet, and the presence of his hand squeezing Yuuri’s helped to deplete some of the unappeasable ache in his chest. As they stepped into the familiarity of the house and Phichit flicked the lights on, Yuuri felt himself relax significantly.

 “You can head upstairs if you want,” Phichit began, giving Yuuri’s hand one last squeeze before pulling away, “I’ll grab some extra pillows and stuff to make it more comfortable.”

With a nod of thanks, Yuuri removed his shoes, cringing at the sand still left in them and wiped his feet on the doormat before quietly climbing up the stairs to Phichit’s room. He seated himself on the bed upon entering, sitting with his legs crossed beneath him as he glanced around the room he had spent so much time in over the previous weeks. It was strange to think that they had only become friends less than a month ago, the way the two of them had clicked straight away made it feel as though they had been friends for years; Yuuri had never been so thankful for such a warm and cheerful presence in his life, someone to rely on no matter what, and as he heard footsteps approaching, he offered a smile as Phichit walked through the door.

“I know the usual way of ‘drowning your sorrows’ is by drinking lots of alcohol,” He started, balancing pillows beneath his armpits; several packets of sweets in one hand and drinks in the other, “but my parents didn’t leave any behind, so all I can offer is a ton of junk food.”

Rushing to the bed, he let everything fall onto it when he noticed that things were beginning to slip from his grasp, and Yuuri let out a soft chuckle, a hint of a smile on his lips.

“That’s okay, this is much better. Thank you.” His eyes scanned over the array of food and drink that Phichit had supplied, wholeheartedly believing his own words. He shivered slightly at the memory of the last – and only - time he had drank alcohol with Daichi, more specifically the way his parents were less than impressed when he stumbled home at three am only to rush to the bathroom to be sick.

“Do you want to get changed? I want you to be comfortable.” Phichit suggested warmly, sinking down onto the bed beside him after rearranging the snacks to make more room.

“Oh, no that’s alright.” Yuuri smiled weakly, although the tightness of his jeans against his thighs said otherwise, “I don’t want to impose.”

With a roll of his eyes, Phichit rose to his feet, heading over to his wardrobe and sliding open one of the doors to revea a large array of clothing, “Don’t be silly, Yuuri. Mi casa es tu casa; what’s mine is yours.”

After shifting through a few items, he pulled out a long pair of navy sweatpants and a loose black shirt, throwing them at Yuuri who was still sitting silently on the bed, “These should fit you, I think we’re about the same size anyway. If not, just let me know and I’ll find something else.”

Expressing his thanks, Yuuri quickly scooped up the items from where they had landed on his lap, heading down the brightly lit hallway to the bathroom. As he pulled his tight jeans from his legs and replaced them with the smooth feeling of the sweatpants, he felt a small wave of relief wash over him at the small comfort they brought. Luckily, they fit perfectly and he swapped his shirt for the one he had been given, relishing in the way the soft cotton felt against his skin.

Upon returning to the room only a few minutes later, his eyes widened at the scene before him; gone were the sugary beverages and sweets, abandoned to the floor while Phichit arranged spare sheets to the bedposts, tying knots to secure them while looping others around screws in the wall.

Noticing Yuuri almost instantly, he gestured for him to help him with a jerk of his head, “Yuuri, hold this for me for a second.”

Without any questions, Yuuri shrugged and followed the instruction, holding a loose corner of a sheet at the edge of the bed while Phichit manoeuvred around him, pulling the other side so that it became taut, creating a slanted makeshift roof over the bed.  

“Alright, I think that should do it.” Phichit nodded, taking a step back with his hands resting loosely on his hips, observing his handiwork with narrowed eyes. As far as forts went, this was an excellent one, it covered the entire bed while still leaving them room to sit comfortably underneath it; Yuuri loved it, loved that they could sit in it and pretend the outside world didn’t exist for a while, and when Phichit eagerly climbed inside it, he gave him a fond smile before following immediately after.

The two of them sat opposite each other, with the array of blankets and sheets above their heads, Phichit reached an arm out to retrieve the abandoned food and dragged it to sit between them as Yuuri watched with calm eyes. Once Phichit had organised them in a pile, he cleared his throat and looked up at Yuuri expectantly, wanting to talk about the elephant in the room.

“So…?” He whispered tenderly, wanting to make sure Yuuri was ready to discuss it, and he knew that he was; it was going to be painful to talk about, but he needed to let it out, to talk through his emotions so he could make sense of them and begin the healing process.

“Daichi broke up with me.” Yuuri confessed bluntly, knowing that it was something he had to do; it was like ripping off a band aid, quick and painless – or not exactly painless in this circumstance. It hurt more to say that it was Daichi who decided, rather than just saying they broke up, but it was true, wasn’t it? It wasn’t a mutual agreement that happened on calm terms. It was yelling, anger, and miscommunication; Yuuri trying to hold onto the thread of their relationship while Daichi didn’t think twice before cutting it off, leaving him heartbroken and alone.

Phichit’s previously cheerful manner had receded instantly, his eyebrows pulled together and his lips downturned in a frown, “Oh, Yuuri. I’m so sorry.”

Warm arms wrapped around his frame and held him close once again, and Yuuri felt the tears beginning to make a reappearance as Phichit rested his head on his shoulder, rubbing his hand up and down his back like he had earlier.

“What happened?” He asked, and Yuuri began to explain, telling him everything, starting from when he had arrived at his house after texting him an apology. He described the way he had boasted to his parents about university; how he had said he wanted to stay close by for Yuuri; how they drove in comfortable silence to his house, where they were enjoying the easy atmosphere of just watching a film together. He shivered slightly as he began to explain when it had all gone horribly, horribly wrong; how he had desperately tried to reassure him that Niki was only an online friend, and how Daichi had just snapped and ended their relationship abruptly.

“Oh, Yuuri.” Phichit didn’t seem to know what to say, as he only tightened his grip and pulled Yuuri closer, beginning to rock him gently in what was supposed to be a soothing gesture. Yuuri didn’t mind if he was honest, he didn’t need empty words of false reassurance, he just needed someone to hold him while he cried it out, and if that’s what Phichit was offering, there was no way he was turning it down.

It didn’t take long for him to think of something to say, however, and he shifted in the embrace, pulling away to wipe away the fresh tears with his thumbs, before moving once again to run his hands through Yuuri’s hair, “Daichi overreacted. For what it’s worth Yuuri, you deserve better. So, so much better.”

A teary laugh managed to surface at that, and Yuuri allowed himself to smile weakly at his friend’s words, even if he didn’t fully believe them. Daichi had almost been a textbook perfect boyfriend; good grades, a bright future ahead of him; a nice car, good looks and polite manners. Disregarding the few odd things he had done now and again, he was one of the best things to ever happen to Yuuri. But now he was gone.

The finality of it twisted his heart once again and his lip trembled, it had been his fault, hadn’t it? He was the one to blame for their break up, if he had just given Daichi more attention and told him about skating sooner, maybe he would still be with him now; their whole lives ahead of them – instead, he was sat in a blanket fort crying to his best friend and about to eat his body weight in sugar.

“I’m glad you called me.” Phichit broke into Yuuri’s thoughts, bringing him back to reality where he made an inquisitive hum, hoping for him to expand on it.

“You shouldn’t have to deal with this alone.” He explained, thankfully picking up on Yuuri’s confusion, “Break ups aren’t fun, and I’m glad that you trust me enough to let me be there for you.”

Yuuri only hugged him tighter, overwhelmed by how kind this boy he had befriended actually was; as his wave of tears finally stopped, a long yawn escaped from his lips and he reached out a hand to catch it, covering his mouth as it dragged excessive air into his lungs.

“Tired?” Phichit asked, breaking their embrace and resting his hands on Yuuri’s arms instead, clearly noticing the fatigue his bloodshot eyes held; not even trying to deny it, Yuuri only nodded sheepishly, rubbing them with his balled up fists and blinking a few times.

“I’m sorry,” He winced slightly, looking at Phichit guiltily, “I know this was supposed to be a fun sleepover, and I ruined it.”

“No, no!” Phichit waved his hands in front of him, quick to reassure Yuuri with a grin, “This was a free therapy session from an unqualified teenager, the sleepover was just complimentary because it was your first time. Don’t worry, you didn’t ruin anything.”

“Thank you.” It felt as though he had lost count of how many times he had thanked Phichit in the last hour, but he couldn’t deny how grateful he really was for him; he couldn’t imagine having to trudge home like this and face questioning looks from his parents and sister.

“Want to head to sleep?” He suggested, already beginning to push to food back onto the floor, mumbling something about saving it for later. Although Phichit was turned away from him, Yuuri nodded nonetheless and shuffled to the head of the bed where a mountain of pillows were waiting for the two of them.

Climbing under the covers, Yuuri felt Phichit do the same only a moment later, after adjusting their makeshift fort to let more air in while they slept. The light was soon flicked off, setting the room in a comfortable darkness and he felt Phichit sidle closer to him, wrapping an arm around him and pulling him close. With the soft glow from the streetlamps outside, he could just about make out his face in the dark; neither of them said anything, Yuuri only moved towards to contact and loosely draped his own arm over Phichit’s torso.

His friendship with Phichit never ceased to amaze him; the platonic affection between them was refreshing, and he was so glad that he could seek this kind of attention with someone without the pressures of a relationship or romantic attachment. With his heart feeling lighter, he made a pleased hum and let his eyes flutter shut, listening to the rise of fall of Phichit’s chest in the silence of the room as he drifted to sleep.


 

Yuuri didn’t know what time it was when his phone began to buzz, dragging him back to consciousness, but judging by the fact that it was still dark outside, he knew it was still late. A small, naïve part of him was hoping that it would be Daichi, and he peeled himself from Phichit’s grip to retrieve his phone from the jacket he’d draped over a chair earlier.

The brightness of it startled him and he winced, squeezing his eyes closed as he tried to turn the brightness down while climbing back into bed; as it decreased to a dim glow, he blinked and felt his eyes focus on the text.

For the first time since they had began talking, Yuuri found that he was disappointed that it was Niki on the other side of the message; although it was unhealthy, he wanted to believe that it was Daichi apologising, saying that he didn’t mean it, but at the radio silence from him, Yuuri knew it was definitely over.

The angry, bitter part of him dropped his phone onto the floor without even bothering to read the messages; if hadn’t met Niki, then he wouldn’t have been distracted and Daichi wouldn’t have broken up with him, he would have still had a boyfriend who loved him.

The spiteful part of his mind maliciously supplied that Yuuri wished they had never talked, that he had never accepted a rematch with him; he had known Niki for less than a month, and he had ruined a three-year friendship that had transitioned into a relationship.

The rational part of his mind gently reminded him that it wasn’t Niki’s fault, that it was wrong to blame him when he hadn’t really done anything wrong. Unfortunately, his brain refused to listen to reason, and began to twist his thoughts, spiralling downwards to force the blame onto Niki. It was easier to pass the breakup off on someone else, to hold hands up and claim they were clean, and who better than someone he hardly knew? Someone who wouldn’t even tell him their name.

After all, when everything was said and done, Niki had been the extra spark that pushed their argument over the edge, he had turned the small fire into a blazing inferno that lead to the end of their relationship. If he hadn’t had such terrible timing – and terrible wording – Daichi might have listened to Yuuri, might have given him more of a chance to explain.

As Yuuri felt himself getting worked up, his phone vibrated again and with an irritated growl, he picked it back up and unlocked the screen, hastily opening the app. Against his better judgement, he was ready to take it out on Niki, to let his frustrations go, despite knowing it was unfair. His rational thoughts were over clouded by harsh ones, and tears pricked in his eyes as he lashed out.

 

In a moment of particular irrationality, he exited the app before Niki could reply further and deleted it; the wound was still too fresh, and he knew that if he kept it that he would be tempted to keep going, to say things he didn’t mean and not be able to take them back. It was one thing to tell Niki to stop talking to him, but it was another to say hurtful things that were fuelled by anger and aim them at the wrong person entirely.

A lot of damage was already done, judging by how confused and hurt Niki had seemed in the few messages he actually did read before deleting it; but at that moment, it was late and Yuuri was tired, hurt, and in no state of mind to try and reconcile with him. If anything, he would only make it far worse.

With new found tears, Yuuri wiped his eyes and took a long shuddering breath, placing his phone back onto the floor and wrapping himself into the cocoon of blankets; reaching out across the mattress, he found Phichit’s hand, interlinking their fingers to help ground him and he tightly closed his eyes, knowing that he had a lot to deal with in the morning.

Chapter Text

When Yuuri awoke, it was to a warm bed, a tear-stained pillow, and an irrevocable ache in his chest. For a few blissful seconds, he was oblivious to what had happened the previous night, but as the cogs in his brain began to turn, he was harshly reminded of everything that had transpired; each word, action and emotion branded into his mind like a stamp he didn’t want to wear.

With a shudder, he buried his head into the pillow, sinking his teeth into his lip to stifle any sobs that threatened to surface at the fresh memories. He felt the bed dipping beside him and heard the shuffling of sheets, lifting his head up to come face to face with a sleepy looking Phichit. Running a hand through his disarranged hair, he offered Yuuri a tired smile, his eyes lidded with sleep.

“Morning.” He murmured, his voice scratching slightly in the early hours of the day; he reached out a hand to rest on Yuuri’s cheek, wiping away the stray tears that had formed with a gentle brush of his thumb, “Shhh, it’s alright.”

Yuuri leaned into the touch, blinking away the tears and giving a soft smile in lieu of speaking; the two of them laid in silence for a few moments, only being broken when Phichit let out a yawn, moving his hand from Yuuri’s cheek to cover his mouth instead.

Phichit lifted himself from where he was laying, moving so that he was sat up and leaning against the headboard and after patting the space beside him, Yuuri did the same. 

“Do you want to talk about it?” He questioned, offering him a sympathetic look; Yuuri averted his eyes, shrugging nonchalantly. He knew that talking it out more would help him to come to terms with what had happened, but it still hurt and he didn’t even know what to say about it.

Sensing his uncertainty, Phichit cleared his throat slightly, pressing a finger to his lips in thought, “Back in Thailand, when my friends would go through a breakup, they would list five things that they didn’t like about their relationship, five things they weren’t going to miss, or even just five things they were looking forward to in the future now that they were single. Maybe that would help?”

Yuuri contemplated the suggestion for a moment, it didn’t sound like too bad of an idea; at the moment, he felt as though he had been stripped of an almost perfect relationship, but maybe this would help to put things into perspective more, would make it easier to get over Daichi.

He made a hum of agreement and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands, trying to wake himself up more before he began to think of any negative aspects of his relationship.

“Okay,” He started, fiddling with the hem of the shirt Phichit had lent him for something to do with his hands, “I guess, he was kind of boring?”

“Is that a question?” Phichit smirked, gently nudging Yuuri in the ribs with his elbow as he rolled his eyes.

“No, yeah. He was boring.” Yuuri nodded to himself, recalling all of the times he had asked if he wanted to hang out, only to be turned out in favour of revision – despite the fact that it was the start of the year, and their exams were months away.

Phichit gave him a reassuring smile, holding up his thumb to signify the first point he had made, “Go on.”

“He wasn’t very good at communication,” Yuuri said with certainty, before letting out a sad laugh, “I mean, I know I wasn’t either, but two people who are terrible at communication weren’t exactly the best match.”

“At least now you know that you need to work on it for you next relationship.” Phichit offered helpfully, and Yuuri nodded in agreement, knowing that he was right.

“Okay, erm third point,” He rubbed his chin with his thumb and forefinger as he thought, before an obvious idea made an appearance, “he was jealous, like too jealous.”

“Really?” Phichit feigned surprise, his mouth agape and eyebrows raised as his tone dripped with sarcasm, “I never would have guessed.”

Yuuri shook his head in amusement, glancing at Phichit’s hand to see that he only needed to make two more points; rather than focusing on Daichi himself he decided to use the other two options Phichit had given him to talk about.

“I’m not going to miss his lectures about needing to revise in the summer, or feeling bad for spending time with other people who aren’t him, like you.” Yuuri was starting to feel better already, was starting to see his relationship in duller colours rather than bright ones that had been abruptly shattered, and he found the ache in his chest was dissipating slightly with every thought he had.

“Okay, now what are you excited for?” Phichit asked, a warm smile on his lips as he saw the shift beginning to take place in Yuuri’s mood.

“I’m excited to meet someone new, I’m excited to learn all about their likes, dislikes, to learn everything about them.” Yuuri found he was now on the verge of a small grin, believing every word he said, because it was true, wasn’t it? Sure, he might have already learnt most of that about Daichi, but now he had a fresh slate; he couldn’t wait to learn all about someone else, and to have them want to know about himself in return.

“Feeling better?” Phichit questioned, a hopeful look in his eyes, and Yuuri nodded, wrapping Phichit in a tight hug to show his thanks. Of course he wasn’t instantly cured of his heartache, they both knew that it would take time, but for now, the melancholy blanket that had been surrounding him was lifted slightly, and he was able to recognise that his relationship wasn’t so amazing after all.

“I meant what I said last night Yuuri,” Phichit rubbed Yuuri’s back as they stayed in their embrace, only pulling away when Yuuri shot him a confused look, “You deserve better - no, you deserve the world. Viktor Nikiforov wouldn’t treat you like this.”

A chuckle bubbled from Yuuri’s throat at that, and he playfully hit Phichit on the arm, an amused smirk playing on his lips, “Whatever you say.”

“Oh! There’s someone I want you to meet.” Phichit said suddenly, excitement leaking from his tone as he peeled away the overs from his legs and rose to his feet, padding over to the other side of his bedroom. Yuuri’s eyes fell on the large cage that sat on top of his desk and he smiled fondly, watching as Phichit opened one of the locks and began cooing at the hamsters, slowly dropping his hands inside to scoop one of them up before closing it again.

With careful steps, he returned to the bed and sat opposite Yuuri with crossed legs, opening his hands to reveal a soft ball of fur, lifting his eyes to Yuuri’s with a proud expression, “This is Hammy the Hamster – original, I know - he’s the one I’ve had the longest.”

With a jerk of his head, he gestured for Yuuri to hold his hands out, and when he did, the hamster was placed inside of them; the feeling of his tiny feet tickled Yuuri slightly, and a giggle escaped from his lips as he lifted his hands up to admire the pet. As he crawled further into one of his hands, he brought them down the rest on his lap, using his free hand to stroke the fur, smiling at the warm softness of it.

“He’s cute, right?” Phichit beamed, shooting Yuuri a knowing look as he saw the glint in his eyes while holding Hammy, and Yuuri nodded enthusiastically.

“Very.”

Phichit just sat back and watched for a while, letting Yuuri coo at the small animal that had been placed in his trust, pleased that it had worked to lift his spirits even more. Glancing at the clock on the bedside table, he returned to his feet announcing that he was going in the shower and left Yuuri and Hammy alone for a few minutes.

Yuuri couldn’t deny that he was glad Phichit had introduced him to one of his hamsters, ever since he had seen them on his Instagram posts, he’d wondered if they were as soft as they looked – they weren’t; they were even softer. Sitting on his best friend’s bed stroking a rodent the morning after his first break up wasn’t something Yuuri had expected to happen, but when he noticed the smile on his face, rather than the tear stains, he knew he wouldn’t have it any other way.

It didn’t take long for Phichit to return, and when he did, he was wearing fresh clothes, rubbing a towel against his damp hair as he entered the room. Draping it over a radiator upon deciding his dark locks were dry enough, he announced that it was time for Hammy to go home, and returned him to the cage with a proud smile, dropping in a few treats before turning to Yuuri.

“I left a fresh towel in the bathroom for you if you want to take a shower, I’ll go make us some breakfast, so take your time.” Reaching into his wardrobe, he pulled out some clean jeans and a shirt for Yuuri, tossing them onto the bed as he received a quiet thank you. With a small nod, he left the room and Yuuri listened to his reclining footsteps as he headed towards the bathroom, the clothes folded over one of his arms.

Stepping into the hot jets and letting them attack his skin was something Yuuri relished in, feeling everything wash away down the drain and give him a fresh start to the day. He didn’t spend too long, not wanting to seem rude and leave Phichit on his own, so after quickly washing his hair with shampoo that smelt like his friend, he rinsed off and changed into the clothes provided, slipping his phone into the pocket and making his way to the kitchen where he was waiting.

Phichit had his back to Yuuri when he entered, so he sat on the floor by the table, studying the patterns in the wood as he waited for him finish whatever he was making. It was only a few minutes later when Phichit turned and noticed Yuuri, shooting him a warm smile and placing a plate in front of him; Yuuri looked at it curiously, not recognising it straight away – especially with the decorations he had put on, making a smiley face with syrup.

“It’s a pancake,” he explained, sensing Yuuri’s confusion, “I saw them on Instagram, and as much as I love Japanese food, I thought it would be fun to try.”

Returning his gaze to the meal in front of him, Yuuri nodded, realising that it was in fact a pancake – albeit it a terrible one, but he appreciated the effort and grinned at Phichit, “Thank you.”

Grabbing his own plate, Phichit dropped down beside Yuuri, digging into his serving hungrily as Yuuri did the same.

“So, what do you want to do today?” He asked conversationally, glancing at Yuuri between a mouthful of food; when he only offered a shrug in response, Phichit thought of suggestions, “We could go to the rink?”

The idea would have been perfect, had Yuuri not been reminded of the promise he’d made to Niki to work on his original program and send it to him; the thought sent a fresh stab of guilt through him as he thought back on the way he had been so unnecessarily hostile to him. The phone in his pocket sat heavily against his thigh, reminding him of what he had to do, but he pushed the nagging feeling away and he averted his eyes, the emotion still too raw.

“No thanks.” He mumbled, hoping Phichit wouldn’t press, which he luckily didn’t, only nodding and continuing to cut apart his pancake.

“We could just have a lazy day, watch some tv or movies or something?”

“Sounds good.” Yuuri nodded, hoping that he could be distracted from the guilt by immersing himself in the cliché plotline of some Hollywood film; he knew he would have to face Niki at some point and apologise, but Yuuri was a coward, he had been running from his problems for years and now was no exception.

 


 

Half way into their third movie, Yuuri’s phone buzzed incessantly and he fished it out of his pocket, quickly answering it when he saw it was only Mari.

“Hey, Yuuri.” Her tone was gentle and tentative, clearly concerned about him and curious as to what had happened the previous night – not that he could blame her due to his vague text messages.

 “Hey.” He greeted, hoping his voice sounded happier than he felt.

“You ready to come home?” She asked, trying to sound cheerful and Yuuri smiled at the sentiment as he nodded.

“Yeah, I think so.” If Yuuri was avoiding Niki, he couldn’t avoid his family too, especially not his sister who knew almost everything about him, “I’m okay, I’ll tell you everything when I get home.”

Phichit turned his attention to Yuuri, acknowledging his need to leave with a smile and thumbs up as he paused the film and rose to his feet, following Yuuri to the front door.

“Alright kiddo, see you soon. I love you.”

“Yeah, love you too.” With a trace of a smile, he ended the call and slipped his shoes onto his feet, lazily tucking the laces into the sides and turning to Phichit, pulling him in for a hug.

“Text or call me if you want to talk, alright?” Phichit patted him on the back before they broke their embrace, Yuuri nodding thankfully before opening the door and stepping out, the two of them exchanging goodbyes as he began his walk home.

The sun was high in the sky as he walked, offering a warmth that he accepted with a content sigh, focusing his attention on the shapes of the clouds littering the pale blue sky, trying to avoid thinking about anything that would stir negative emotions until he got home. Unfortunately, he forgot that to get to the inn, he had to pass the beach, and as he spotted the log he had sat on with Phichit while walking by, he shuddered at the memory of him fighting with his lungs for breath while weeping. A shiver convulsed through his body, sending a chill down his spine and he pulled the jacket tightly around himself, increasing his pace to get home as quickly as possible.

Upon entering the inn, he was met by Mari who was waiting by the entrance for him to arrive; her gaze was questioning, her eyebrows pulled together as she looked him and down with confusion.

“Hey.” He greeted lamely, unsure of how to begin, and she gently wrapped a hand around his arm, leading him up the stairs and to his room where she sat on the edge of his bed, patting to seat beside her which Yuuri took.

“Are you alright?” She asked hesitantly, and although Yuuri nodded, the tremble of his lip and the glossiness in his eyes betrayed him and she took his hands in hers, unsure of whether or not Yuuri wanted a hug.

“What happened?” The concern and worry was laced into the question as she softly squeezed his hands, encouraging Yuuri to meet her gaze.

“We broke up.” He smiled sadly, his voice cracking as he spoke and suddenly he was wrapped tightly in Mari’s arms, the feeling of her hands running through his hair comfortingly distracting him as he closed his eyes and buried his head into her shoulder.

He explained everything, describing the faults on both of their parts, and how they had overreacted, their anger leading to more conflict until eventually the flame burnt out and that was the end of it. The finality of it all stung once again, and he felt slightly embarrassed for letting it affect him so much.

“Oh Yuuri.” Mari hummed, placing a kiss to his temple as she soothed him; after a moment of silence, she spoke again, her tone revealing that something had clicked in her head, “Wait, is that why you didn’t want anyone to know about your skating? Were you scared everyone would react like that?”

Yuuri only nodded sadly, hiding his head on Mari’s shoulder rather than facing her, she didn’t seem to mind, continuing to rub his back gently as she spoke, “You know that Daichi is only one person, right? Just because he overreacted doesn’t mean everyone else will.”

Yuuri hummed in acknowledgement, not entirely sure how to reply and Mari finally broke their embrace, resting her hands on his shoulders as she looked into his eyes encouragingly, “You know mum and dad won’t react like that, right?”

Averting his eyes, Yuuri stared at the floor and shrugged; truthfully, he had no idea, he didn’t know what to expect from his parents. Obviously, he hoped that they would support him, but they could always turn around and dismiss him and his abilities, and Yuuri didn’t know if his heart would be able to take it.

“You never know until you try.” Mari nudged him, a reassuring smile on her lips; Yuuri knew she was right, he knew that he did have to tell them, because once they found out he was no longer dating Daichi they would ask why, and his skating was partly the reason for it. There really wasn’t any way around it, and what if he told them and they did support him? He would be able to pursue it, or at least get a coach so he can improve and maybe even think about entering a competition after all.

“Hey Yuuri,” Mari pulled him from his thoughts, a softness in her eyes that she never failed to offer when he needed it, “even if they don’t – but I’m ninety nine percent sure they will – I’ll always believe in you, alright?”

“Thank you.” He nodded, wiping away the tear stains from his cheeks and inhaling deeply, “I think I should tell them, I mean they were going to find out anyway.”

“Okay, well I guess this is a good time,” Mari smiled, glancing at the clock on Yuuri’s bedside table, “They’ll have just started their lunch break.”

Rising to her feet, she held out a hand that Yuuri took gratefully, and the two of them headed towards the room for the staff only, spotting their parents eating their meals with smiles on their faces, chatting happily away. At the sound of the door opening, their heads turned to face Yuuri and Mari, and luckily they didn’t notice the slight redness in Yuuri’s eyes.

Greeting them cheerfully, Hiroko patted the space beside her and Yuuri dropped to the floor to take the seat, wringing his hands together nervously; noticing his discomfort, his mother narrowed her eyes in concern, placing a warm hand over his as she gazed at him worriedly.

“Are you okay?” She whispered, and Yuuri nodded, lifting his eyes to meet Mari’s over the table; her encouraging nod and gesture to their parents gave him the courage to smile and take a deep breath.

“I want a coach.”

Yuuri realised straight away that maybe that wasn’t the best way of explaining his situation, when his parents gave him a puzzled look, and Mari only shook her head with an amused smirk, sighing slightly at his way with words.

“A…coach?” His mother asked slowly, as if she was unsure that she had heard correctly; Yuuri couldn’t say he blamed her, after all, he hadn’t even specified what for, or why; in fact, he hadn’t even answered her initial question.

With a long exhale, he ran a hand down his face, cringing at his awkwardness before trying again, “Yeah, a coach…for, um, for ice skating?”

Although it wasn’t supposed to be a question - because yes, he definitely meant for ice skating - his tone made it come out as one, and his parents gave each other a look. Yuuri knew how bad he was at this whole ‘communication’ thing, and his inability to even tell his parents something straight was really a shining example of it.

“Why on earth would you want a coach for ice skating?” His father asked, and Yuuri winced, however, upon looking up through his eyelashes to meet his gaze, there was no anger or incredulity; only curiosity and confusion.

“Because, I want to enter a competition – not right now! Maybe not even for a while, but, I really want to try.” Yuuri mumbled, closing in on himself as he wrapped his arms around his body shyly, hoping to make himself as small as possible as he waited for a response.

“Yuuri, honey, ice skating is a difficult sport,” Hiroko began, placing a hand on his arm and pulling him out from his human shell, “it takes years of practise.” 

Yuuri couldn’t stop the laugh that escaped his lips at that, and with wide eyes, he slapped a hand over his mouth in embarrassment, hoping he didn’t come across as rude. As his mother and father only gave him a questioning look, he rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly with a nervous chuckle.

“Yeah, erm, about that,” He began, swallowing as his mouth became dry, knowing that this was the time to tell them, “I’ve kind of been doing it for years, like a lot of years.”

“What?” They said in unison, and Yuuri flinched, afraid that he was about to be yelled at and bombarded with questions fuelled by anger, but they only looked between themselves, as if asking if the other knew about it. When the two of them shrugged and reverted their attention to Yuuri, they had expectant looks on their faces.

“Would you care to explain?” Toshiya asked, although he looked more interested than displeased, and Yuuri allowed himself a sigh of relief as he explained everything; how he started, how long for, what he could do, what he couldn’t do, why he liked it so much.

When he finished, and they only continued to stare at him with their mouths slightly agape, he panicked and worried it meant that they didn’t entirely believe him, or weren’t taking him seriously; quickly pulling out his phone, he had a determined look painted on his face.

“I can show you, look!” Opening up his camera roll, he easily found the video he had sent to Niki and handed it to his mother, who held it out for his father to watch too as he pressed play.

Worrying his lip as he studiously watched their expressions, his heart rate picked up as he tried to figure out how they were feeling, but their faces remained still as they watched in silence. When they finally turned their attention to Yuuri, rather than the small screen, they both held inquisitive looks and he feared the worst.

(Until his mother spoke.)

“Yuuchan that was beautiful,” Her eyes seemed glossier than before, and despite the furrow of her eyebrows, a fond smile was sat on her lips, “why didn’t you tell us?”

With a gulp, Yuuri cleared his throat, explaining his fears and laying out his insecurities before them; he almost felt like a broken record at this point, but if he wanted them to understand and support him, there was no use in lying or pretending he wasn’t as worried as he clearly was. It seemed that now was as good a time as any to tell them about Daichi, and he briefly explained what had happened, not wanting to go into detail because he was still too raw; as much as he loved his parents, he didn’t want them to see him sobbing over a boy.

“Oh Yuuri, all we want is for you to be happy.” With open arms, his mother dragged him forward and into her embrace, his father encircling them both with his own, ruffling Yuuri’s hair with a chuckle.

“As if we would ever doubt you, especially with that routine.” His father shook his head as they all pulled apart, tutting slightly, as though he couldn’t believe Yuuri’s mind had jumped to such a conclusion, “How long have you been working on that?”

“Technically it’s not mine,” He shrugged shyly, turning his gaze to the floor as his cheeks flushed slightly “It’s this other skater’s, he’s called Viktor Nikiforov and he’s absolutely amazing- erm, I mean, I just used it to work on my skills I guess.”

Apparently his mother picked up on his admiration for Viktor – how could she not -, and with a smirk, she nudged him, “Is that the handsome man on your wall?”

Yuuri paled, forgetting that his mother must have gone into his room to change his sheets and he’d forgotten about the poster; hiding his head in his hands, he groaned in embarrassment, feeling the heat rapidly rising to his face. Despite himself, he nodded anyway and heard Mari snicker from across the table.

“So, you want a coach?” Toshiya questioned, remembering the words that had initiated the conversation in the first place, and when Yuuri nodded in confirmation, his father grinned, placing a hand on his shoulder, “I’ll look into it straight away, I think a few gold medals hanging around the inn would look nice, don’t you?”

“Definitely.” His mother beamed, and Yuuri couldn’t help the grin that formed on his lips.

He was one step closer to Viktor.

 


 

 

Yuuri would be lying if he said he wasn’t nervous to go to school the next day; his usual routine had been shattered by his breakup, and he knew that he would have to face Daichi again – something he didn’t particularly want to do at all.

Nevertheless, he was determined to not let it show, he needed to act as though he was unaffected by it all, because surely that’s how Daichi would be feeling and he didn’t want to look weak. As Phichit had once told him, the saying ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ was something to live by, and Yuuri tried to apply it as he got out of bed and ready for school.

Upon arriving, he plastered on his most believable smile, arriving later than he usually did, given that he no longer needed to wait for Daichi to spend time together before the first bell. If Yuuri was honest, he found that he was more disappointed about not having Niki to text to distract him rather than not having Daichi, finding that the conversations he held with the Russian were far more entertaining.

Shaking his head, he dismissed the thought, it was his own fault anyway.

Soon enough, the bell ran throughout the building and he headed to physics, greeting Phichit with a smile as he took his seat, noticing that he was already sat waiting.

“Hey,” Phichit whispered, glancing around to see if anyone was listening, when they weren’t he continued with a soft smile, “are you alright?”

With a nod of reassurance, Yuuri tried to deflect the question, hoping that his friend would pick up on the fact that he didn’t want to talk about it – which he thankfully did, returning his attention to their project that was laid on the table in front of them.

As much as Yuuri didn’t think physics to be the most interesting subject in the world, he welcomed the distraction from his thoughts of Niki and Daichi, and immersed himself in his work; if the two of them could get a good grade at the same time, then it was the best thing to do.

Although the physics lesson flew by quickly, his following lessons seemed to last a lifetime and Yuuri had never been more grateful than when the bell rang, signifying the start of lunch and he met up with Phichit, heading to the café.

The two of them made small talk as they waited in line to be served, Phichit talked excitedly about how he got a high grade in his English class, and that the language was finally starting to make sense to him; Yuuri listened, nodding at the appropriate times to show his interest, knowing from his own experience that the language could be quite difficult to grasp.

Although he didn’t have anything interesting to share from his own classes, Phichit seemed to be able to fill the silences with new anecdotes and stories to pass the time as they waited for their meals, and once they finally had their trays in hand, they headed into the hall to find a seat.

Obviously, sitting at their usual table was no longer an option, and their seats had already been taken by two new students, so they walked straight past, not even offering a glance as they took their seats a few tables away.

With their chopsticks in hand, the two of them hungrily dug into their food, Phichit still talking animatedly as he made gesticulations with his free hand; Yuuri was unsure whether or not Phichit was always like this and he just hadn’t noticed, or whether he was just trying extra hard to keep Yuuri happy and distracted from the heartache he was hiding, but he was grateful nonetheless and listened intently, laughing along and smiling as he spoke.

Although Yuuri knew for certain that it was a bad idea, his curiosity got the better of him and he glanced over to their old table, looking over Phichit’s shoulder as he recounted a fresh story and a frown tugged at his lips.

Daichi was smiling away – not that it was a bad thing – but it seemed as though their break up hadn’t affected him at all, that it was already water under the bridge and didn’t even feel a drop of remorse. Of course, he could be faking it like Yuuri was, but his eyes seemed too alive and cheerful to be fake; Yuuri felt a twang of jealousy that he didn’t seem to care, that Yuuri was the one who’d gotten the short end of the stick while he was surrounded by his friends – their friends.

Had they chosen Daichi over him? He knew that it wasn’t unreasonable, after all he was far more likeable and easy to talk to, but it still hurt that the end of their relationship had apparently meant the end of Yuuri’s friendships too. He didn’t know that it was part of the deal, but he guessed that it made sense, why would they want to hang around with Yuuri when Daichi was so much better; so much funnier; so much –

“-Yuuri?”

His eyes whipped back to meet Phichit’s, who was staring at him quizzically, his eyebrows knitted together and a small frown on his lips, if he had asked him a question, Yuuri hadn’t heard it; in fact, he hadn’t heard anything that he’d said for the last few minutes, too distracted by his thoughts.

“Hmm?” He asked nonchalantly, stabbing his food with more force than necessary, earning him a wary glance from his best friend.

“Distracted again?” He asked not unkindly, a knowing look in his eyes, and Yuuri stared guiltily at the table, embarrassed that he’d accidentally ignored whatever it was Phichit had been saying.

“Yeah, sorry.” He mumbled awkwardly, cringing at himself, but Phichit only nudged him under the table with a gentle smile, dismissing it with a shake of his head.

“What’s got you so distracted anyway…” Phichit turned in his seat to see what had put Yuuri in a foul mood, his voice trailing off as he realised, “Oh.”

“Hey, it’s okay. Rome wasn’t built in a day, you’ll get over it eventually.” Yuuri wasn’t sure where Phichit kept coming up with all of these sayings, but decided that maybe that was why he got a better grade in English and only shrugged, offering a sad smile at his words. He knew that it would take time, that wasn’t the problem, not really.

The issue was that while Daichi was continuing as if nothing had happened, Yuuri was sat playing with his food, his heart aching without respite; many people say that there is always a winner and a loser in a relationship, and while Yuuri had thought that wasn’t true - because surely both people are losers if they fall out of love - it seemed like Daichi was a winner at the moment. The fact that Yuuri might have cared more deeply than him a hurt more than he cared to admit, he felt like such a fool, but he only had himself to blame.

“Do you want to go?” Phichit suggested after several minutes, noticing that Yuuri was yet to take another bite to eat, and by the looks of it he wasn’t planning on continuing any time soon; he nodded and rose to his feet, swinging his bag over his shoulder and throwing his half-eaten meal in the bin as they left the hall so Yuuri didn’t have to look at Daichi any longer.

 


 

Despite finding maths an easy subject to understand, Yuuri had never particularly enjoyed it, and as he sat in his last lesson of the day, copying down questions into his book and solving them in under a minute, he found it almost unbearable. Over the last month, he’d spent this hour talking to Niki with his phone discreetly peeking out from under the table, trying to stifle his giggles in an attempt to not get caught.

But as he sat in the uncomfortable chair, writing the same thing over and over again, he felt the boredom washing over him. He craved the feeling of his phone vibrating in his trouser pocket, alerting him of a new message, however, it remained stubbornly silent - not that it could notify him if it wanted to, he was the one who decided to delete the app after all.

He thought that maybe the schoolwork would help to distract him from his guilt, help him to ignore it and push it away if he didn’t have to think about it, but with the silence of the classroom, broken only by the constant ticking of a clock and pencils scribbling on paper, it seemed to heighten it, giving him no escape from the churning in his stomach.

The worst thing was that Yuuri knew he was making it worse by ignoring it; this wasn’t something he could sweep under the rug and hope it resolved itself; but Yuuri was afraid of confrontation, afraid that Niki would push him away and refuse to forgive him. That hurt almost more than the break up with Daichi.

Ripped from his thoughts by the bell several minutes later, he sighed in relief and hastily packed up his things, excited to get home and ignore his problems from the safety of his bedroom, rather than while he was surrounded by hundreds of other students.

Maneuvering through the waves of people, he made his way to his locker, twisting the handle to his combination before hearing a satisfying click and pulling the door open. Shrugging his bag from his back, he lifted a knee and rested it on top, pulling out the books he no longer needed and propping them up inside, grateful for the weight that had been removed.

“Yuuri!”

Yuuri froze in his place as he heard the voice, he would recognise it anywhere; tightly squeezing his eyes closed, he took a deep breath momentarily before reopening them and looking past his locker door with a straight face, to where surely enough, Daichi was approaching.

“What do you want?” He asked bluntly, avoiding his eye contact as he zipped up his bag and slipped it back onto his shoulders.

“Hello to you too.” He scoffed, running a hand through his hair, and Yuuri clenched his jaw, looking up expectantly for an answer.

“You left your laptop at my house.” He shrugged, handing over the black case and Yuuri took it from him, mumbling a half-hearted thanks; maybe if he hadn’t been kicked out so abruptly he would have had more time to remember to grab it, but there was no use arguing about that, so he just slipped the strap over his head, adjusting it so that the laptop rested on his side.

“You’re welcome.” Daichi must have heard his quiet thank you, and as Yuuri met his gaze, he didn’t miss the fake smile that was on his lips, “Wouldn’t want you to lose your precious skating videos.”

The hairs on the back of Yuuri’s neck stood up at the venom in his tone, and he wore a tense smile, slamming his locker door a little too loudly as he forced himself to bite back the angry words that so desperately wanted to spill from his mouth.

Luckily, someone saved him from accidentally saying something he would regret, when they called Daichi’s name from the end of the corridor; glancing over, Yuuri saw that it was his friends – old friends – and he felt another twang in his heart.

“I’ll see you around, Yuuri.” Daichi was already walking away as he spoke, heading towards the group of boys and Yuuri only held the straps of his backpack tightly, reeling in his distaste.

“Whatever.”

 


 

The following day, Yuuri unintentionally shot himself in the foot when he snoozed his alarm one too many times. His rushed morning meant that he didn’t have time to ensure he was entirely ready for the day, and when he couldn’t find his glasses, he left without them, assuming he’d just put them in his backpack and would retrieve them when he got to school.

Needless to say, the definitely weren’t in his backpack, and he came to this realisation during first period when he emptied his entire contents only to come back empty handed. The pages in front of him were nothing but a blur, allowing him to make out one or two words at best, and when his constant squinting to strain to read them became too much, he knew that he would have to resort to texting Mari during their break.

His eyes ached once the first few hours had passed, and he had never fished his phone out so fast when the bell went, already typing out the message.

 

Phichit, being the nosey best friend that he was, couldn’t help his curiosity, and as he lead the two of them over to a pair of seats, sitting down with a sigh, he shot Yuuri a questioning look, “Is that Niki?”

Yuuri, not paying attention as usual, looked up from the device with knitted eyebrows, a puzzled look on his face; when Phichit gestured towards his phone, he shook his head quickly, dismissing the idea.

“Oh, no it’s just Mari.” He shrugged nonchalantly, hoping that Phichit wouldn’t pry, “I forgot my glasses.”

“Oh, I never would have guessed.” Phichit chuckled sarcastically, an amused smile on his face, most likely by how odd he looked without the blue framed plastic and glass lenses.

He still hadn’t told Phichit what had happened with Niki, too embarrassed and ashamed to admit to his actions, but the question seemed to be on the tip of his tongue, and Yuuri could already feel it coming as he braced himself.

“What did Niki say when you told him about the break up?”

There it was.

“I haven’t.” Yuuri sighed, playing with his phone in an attempt to avoid the subject, which was pointless really, because Phichit was most definitely not going to leave it at that.

“Oh, why not?” The confusion in his eyes was clear as day, and Yuuri rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly, unsure of how to explain it.

“We’re not exactly on speaking terms at the moment.” He decided on, although he realised too late that his vague statements were only going to add more fuel to the fire in Phichit’s curiosity and he internally winced.

“Why? What did he do?” Phichit seemed almost worried now, defensive over Yuuri and it was the last thing he deserved, so he slid his phone back into his pocket, breaking the façade of being busy and giving him his full attention. Phichit was his best friend, he deserved an actual explanation, and if there was anyone he could talk to about it and make sense of it with, it was him.

“It’s more a case of what did I do.”  Yuuri sighed, burying his head in his hands and slightly tugging on the ends of his hair.

“Okay then, what did you do?”

“You know when I slept at your house the other night?” Yuuri began, slowly removing his head from his hands and looking up at Phichit, who was nodding along with a trace of worry in his eyes, “Well, my phone went off during the night, a stupid part of me thought – was hoping – that it was Daichi, but it turned out to be Niki…”

Yuuri found It hard to continue, balling his hands into fists as he felt his stomach turn, in his mind he knew that it was bad, that he had acted out of anger and it was no excuse; but saying out loud, admitting it Phichit was so much worse, because it gave him the freedom to tell Yuuri the same things that he thought: that he was a terrible person, that he didn’t deserve Niki’s forgiveness.

However, when he met Phichit’s gaze once again, his eyes only held warmth and curiosity, soft in a way that reassured him that he could tell him what had happened, he licked his lips, nodding for Yuuri to continue, “And…?”

“I know it doesn’t make it right, or justify what I did, but remember that I was still incredibly emotional and it was late and I wasn’t thinking straight.”

“Like you ever are.” Phichit joked in an attempt to lighten Yuuri’s mood, and he shook his head, a hint of a smile on his lips, “Sorry, bad time to joke, carry on.”

“Anyway, for some God awful reason, my brain decided that it would be a good idea to make me believe that it was all Niki’s fault – Niki, of all people! The person who has been nothing but lovely and supportive to me this whole time.”

“Oh Yuuri,” Phichit frowned, although it seemed to be sympathetic rather than disapproving, “what did you say?”

“I just kept telling him to leave me alone, to stop talking to me.” Yuuri confessed, fiddling with the sleeves of his uniform, too embarrassed to look up at Phichit, who made a hum of understanding.

“Did he?”

“Did he what?” Yuuri asked, confused by the question.

“Leave you alone.” Phichit clarified, bending his head to encourage Yuuri to face him, which he eventually did, although not without reluctance.

“I don’t know.” He mumbled, because it was the truth, he hadn’t even given Niki the opportunity to because he’d cut him off before he could.

“You don’t know?” Phichit repeated slowly, unsure of what to make of Yuuri’s words, and he nodded sheepishly.

“Yeah, I kind of deleted the app so I didn’t have to read his messages anymore.” He cringed as he spoke, knowing even now how ridiculous it sounded.

“Oh god,” Phichit shook his head at that, sinking into his seat as he stared at Yuuri, “you know I love you, but you’ve got to admit it’s a little crazy.”

“I know.” Yuuri whined, throwing his head back, “I knew at the time that it was ridiculous, but I couldn’t stop myself because I was that upset, and now I’m too embarrassed to redownload it, because then I’ll have to explain to him how ridiculous it is; what if he hates me?”

“Well, at the moment, he’s probably just really confused and hurt,” Phichit mused, rubbing his chin in thought, “if you don’t even give him and explanation, then that’ll only make it worse. You still like him, right?”

“Of course,” Yuuri worried his lip, his leg beginning to bounce reflexively as he explained his worries, “that’s why I’m so scared, because if he doesn’t accept my apology and cuts me off, it’ll hurt too much.”

“But Yuuri,” Phichit began, leaning forward in his seat to get his full attention, “You cut him off, that’s got to hurt way more because he doesn’t even know why.”

“I know, I know.” Yuuri frowned, because he did; these thoughts had been circulating in his brain ever since he sent the messages, but it didn’t make it any easier to actually bite the bullet and apologise.

“Just do it Yuuri, the longer you wait, the worse it’s going to be. Just do it when you get home, okay?”

“Okay, I will.”


 

After Mari dropped off his glasses, Yuuri’s day returned to normal, although he found that it was dragging even more so than usual; each lesson was spent trying to come up with the message he was going to send to Niki, planning out his responses for each and every scenario that could happen. Some ending worse than others.

Before he knew it, he was on his way home and he knew that he no longer had any more time to delay the inevitable; there was no way to repair the damage without him making the first move, and so as soon as he had stepped through the door, he rushed to his bedroom, changing out of his uniform and flopping onto his bed with his phone in hand, already pressing the download button.

As soon as he’d signed in, he checked Niki’s profile, finding that he had been online an hour ago and bit his lip, knowing he might get a reply soon after he sent his message. Taking a deep breath, he opened the messages he had missed after deleting the app, wincing as he felt a new wave of guilt hit him.

 

Yuuri wasn’t sure what to say, but sitting and staring at the page, hoping for it to be fixed was pointless, so he began typing.

 

Yuuri locked his phone and laid back on the bed, bouncing gently as he raised his arms to cover his eyes and exhaled deeply.

Having to wait was painful, there was always the possibility that Niki might not even reply, he could glance over Yuuri’s messages with a scoff, deciding he wasn’t worth his time, that he wouldn’t give him another chance – not that Yuuri could honestly say he deserved one.

He might not even look at the messages, refusing to even bother reading them; Yuuri couldn’t blame him if he did, it was something he had been guilty of anyway; why should Niki have to reply to him, if he couldn’t do the same?

Yuuri understood that he was in no position to complain, Niki had waited days for Yuuri return, clueless to why he’d even left in the first place or whether he was even going to come back. If he could endure that, then it was hardly fair for Yuuri to be upset about needing to wait a few minutes or hours.

If there was a God out there, apparently he had decided to take pity on Yuuri, because a ding from his phone broke him from his thoughts and he scrambled to retrieve it from where it laid on the bed, it’s screen alight. His heart began to pound against his chest as his anxiety warned him that he might open the message only to discover that Niki was terminating their friendship, that he had only replied to tell him that he hated Yuuri.

Not reading the preview, he swiped the screen to instantly open the messages; as they loaded, he braced himself for the worst, convinced that he would have to beg for forgiveness and make it up to Niki for days on end.

He didn’t expect Niki to react like this.

Yuuri almost cried in relief as he locked his phone, his lips upturned in a goofy smile at the fact that they had returned to their playful and easy friendship, that after everything, he hadn’t messed up their friendship after all.

As Yuuri headed downstairs to help with the chores, his heart fluttering contentedly, he only had one thought in his mind: what did he do to deserve Niki?

Chapter Text

Reluctantly pulled from his sleep by the buzzing of his alarm, Yuuri groaned as he reached out to silence it, squinting his eyes at the brightness of the screen. Brushing the loose hairs from his eyes, he noticed that he had a notification and shifted to rest on his elbow, blinking slightly to remove the blurriness before reading it.

 

A small smile tugged at his lips as he flopped backwards and draped his arm over his eyes, unable to push down the warm flutter in his chest; he wasn’t sure if he’d ever get used to how much Niki cared, how much even the smallest messages could make him smile. Lazily swiping his thumb across the screen, he opened the message and sent a short reply before dropping his phone back onto the bed and pushing himself to sit up fully.

Yuuri frowned as the chill of his room hit him upon pulling away the warm sheets, stretching his arms above his head in an attempt to soothe the uncomfortable ache that had built up while sleeping.

Getting ready for the day ahead did not take Yuuri long, his shower cut down to less than five minutes as he allowed the hot jets to run over his skin, and his uniform hanging in the wardrobe took him only a moment to slide over his skin and button up, now feeling slightly more awake.

In the corner of his eye, he noticed the stuffed poodle that Daichi had won him a few weeks ago, laying on top of his drawers and although there was a twinge in his heart, he was glad to find that the ache was not as strong as he’d expected.

Yuuri padded over to where it was sitting; taking it into his hands as he gently ran his fingers through the soft fur, a sad smile playing on his lips. Rationally, he knew that he should probably just throw it away, not wanting to be reminded of the memories with Daichi; but for the sake of nostalgia, he found that he was unable to and decided that even if it no longer made him happy, it didn’t mean it couldn’t provide comfort to someone else.

With it in hand, he hid it behind his back as he made his way down the stairs, cooing at Vicchan when he saw the poodle’s ears perk up at the sound of his footsteps. Within seconds, the dog was by his side, excitedly pressing his paws to Yuuri’s thighs as his tongue stuck out of his mouth expectantly.

A soft chuckle bubbled from Yuuri’s throat as he stroked him behind the ears with his free hand, bending down into a crouched position as he allowed Vicchan to attack his face with wet kisses, only cringing slightly at the feeling as he shook his head with an amused grin. Pushing him off slightly, Yuuri tickled him under the chin to get his attention, and Vicchan tilted his head questioningly, his paws now halted in their movement and resting on Yuuri’s knees.

“Do you want a present?” Yuuri questioned enthusiastically, nodding his head with a grin to get his poodle excited, despite the fact that he had no idea what he was saying. In response, Vicchan began panting, an eager bark echoing through the room and Yuuri was quick to hush him, wincing at the thought of waking the guests at such an early hour.

Vicchan only kept his gaze on Yuuri, his eyes glistening with the promise of something and Yuuri carefully set his paws on the floor, shifting himself so that he was sitting opposite with crossed legs, the stuffed toy still hidden behind his back.

“Sit.” Yuuri tapped a hand gently to the floor, nodding towards it and Vicchan obeyed, seating himself upright and preening when Yuuri cooed at him, leaning into the touch as he stroked his head with careful hands.

“Okay, are you ready?” Yuuri asked, hoping that no one could hear him talking to his dog when it was not even seven in the morning yet; luckily, the only other people awake were his parents and Mari, and they were busy preparing breakfast in the kitchen, and so with a shrug he continued.

Vicchan nodded his head, unsure of what was happening, but seemingly encouraged by Yuuri’s expressions and tone. Glancing over his shoulders conspiratorially, to give Vicchan the impression that this was important, he finally revealed the soft plushie, holding it out in front of him with both hands and the poodle’s eyes instantly locked onto it, his paws reaching out to grab it.

Yuuri pulled his hands away as Vicchan took it into his jaw, not wanting to get any fingers trapped between his teeth; he found a grin was painted onto his face as he watched the way Vicchan pulled it close towards him, exploring the feeling of it for several minutes before returning to his bed and holding it securely under one of his legs in a protective manner. Yuuri had no idea whether Vicchan was self-aware enough to know that it was a plushie of a poodle just like him, but he did know that he loved it all the same and that throwing it away was a bad idea.

With a newfound warmth blossoming in his chest, he rose to his feet and began his day.

 


 

“What’s got you in such a good mood?”

Yuuri turned at the question as he entered the gates of his school, noticing Phichit was now by his side with a curious look laced into his features.

“What do you mean?” Yuuri furrowed his eyebrows, unaware that he was even in a particularly good mood, but when his best friend rolled his eyes and sighed, knocking him with the side of his hip, he found that apparently he was.

“You just look happy,” Phichit began to explain, gesturing vaguely towards Yuuri with an open palm and leaving him none the wiser, “like, yesterday you were all sad about Niki and might as well have had a rain cloud over your head; but now, it’s just like…a regular cloud?”

“Wow, thanks, just a regular cloud; not a sun?” Yuuri joked, unsure of what that was supposed to even mean, and how it was possible for him to earn one.

“No, because if it was a sun, you would have started off your day by calling me up and telling me how wonderful of a best friend I am; and that realisation would have blessed your day.” Phichit teased, a smirk tugging at his lips as Yuuri shook his head in amusement and nudged him with an elbow.

“Unbelievable.” Yuuri muttered with no venom in his tone, only light heartedness at how Phichit’s personality always seemed to shine through.

“Well, you’re not denying it.” He pointed out with a shrug, holding the door open for the two of them as they entered the large building, Yuuri offering a small thanks as he did so.

“Anyway, so what did put you in a good mood?” Phichit tried again, his gaze fixated on Yuuri as they walked, his eyes inquisitive as he looked as though he was trying to form an answer on his own, “Wait, did you talk to Niki?”

At the mention of his name, Yuuri found himself unable to supress the hint of a smile that tugged at his lips and before he could even nod and confirm it, Phichit was pointing it out with a grin of his own, pressing his index finger into one of Yuuri’s dimples.

“Oh my god, you did!  How did it go?” He questioned, continuing to speak without even giving Yuuri an opportunity to reply, “I mean, based on the fact that you’re happy, I’m guessing it went well.”

“Yeah it did.” Yuuri nodded, not missing the way Phichit stepped closer, as though that would somehow help him to absorb more information and detail from his words.

And…?” He pressed, gesturing for Yuuri to expand with a turn of his wrist, intrigue leaking from his tone.

“He was really nice about it,” Yuuri began, finding a fresh wave of relief wash over him at the confirmation that yes, he and Niki were in fact still friends, and that saying it out loud made it more real, “he was really understanding, and we both just kept apologising to each other for a while until we snapped out of it.”

“Well, I’m really glad,” Phichit smiled sincerely, his voice soft, “so what exactly did he say?”

Deciding that it would take too long to recount everything in detail, Yuuri retrieved his phone from his trouser pocket and opened the app, quickly navigating to the conversation and scrolling up to where it had begun. Yuuri hesitated before handing it over, a part of him wanted to keep it private, knowing that their friendship was something he valued more than anything and held close to his heart. Nevertheless, he also knew that Phichit was his best friend, and so there really wouldn’t be any harm done; besides, their more heartfelt conversations were higher up and all he would be reading was their reconciliation.

“Here.” Yuuri gestured to the device with a nod of his head, holding it out in an extended hand which Phichit took eagerly, clearly flattered by the fact that Yuuri was trusting him with it.

He was silent for a few moments as he read through the messages, Yuuri navigating the two of them through the crowd of students to get to their common room while Phichit was distracted; he made several hums of acknowledgement and understanding as he scrolled through, even tutting slightly – probably at something Yuuri had said no doubt.

By the time they had reached the room, and Yuuri had managed to find them two of the standard plastic chairs together, Phichit had finished reading and handed the phone back with a playful smirk on his lips as they sat down; although he tried to hide it with the back of his hand, Yuuri caught the look and knitted his eyebrows together worriedly.

“What?”

“Nothing.” Phichit managed to wipe off all the amusement from his face and stared at Yuuri as though he was confused, causing him to groan in annoyance and prod him in the ribs.

“Tell me.” Yuuri whined, worried that something he had said to Niki had been misinterpreted and he’d embarrassed himself; suddenly realising that Phichit may have sent a message, his blood ran cold and he was quick to open up the app and let out a sigh of relief when he found that he hadn’t. However, it only caused him to feel even more perplexed at what Phichit had found so funny, and he hardened his stare in the hopes that he would get an answer.

“Fine,” he relented, the smirk reappearing on his lips as he shifted in his chair, “it’s just, you somehow manage to drag Viktor into every conversation you have.”

Oh.

“Don’t exaggerate,” Yuuri was quick to defend himself, despite the fact that he could already feel the flush of his cheeks and knew that to some extent, Phichit was right, “an opportunity arose and I took it; if someone has the same birthday as him, of course I’m going to tell them.”

Phichit’s smirk only deepened and Yuuri had to resist the urge to bury his head in his hands when his friend spoke, “Of course you would.”

“It was helpful trivia; if I had the same birthday as Viktor Nikiforov, figure skating prodigy, I’d want to know.” Yuuri tried to explain, already knowing that he was fighting a losing battle but determined to at least try and claw his way back up.

 “Yes, but you already know you don’t have the same birthday, in fact I’d like to know something about him that you don’t know.” Phichit pointed out, looking rather pleased with himself, and although Yuuri knew that he was only teasing him, he couldn’t stop the pink that was dusting his cheeks.

"There’s lots of things I don’t know about him.” Yuuri declared, cringing when he realised how wistful he sounded, and by the look on Phichit’s face, he understood just how deeply Yuuri was infatuated with him, and that at this point there was probably no coming back.

“Oh yes, you don’t know his favourite ice cream flavour,” Phichit winked, gesturing to the phone in Yuuri’s hands, before teasingly adding, “apparently.”

“I actually don’t!” Yuuri defended, his face now burning just from talking about Viktor for a few moments, “Why would I know something like that?”

“Well, I’ve seen the other facts you do know,” Phichit began, resting his chin on the palm of his hand, a mischievous look in his eyes, “don’t act like you don’t have skating magazines stashed under your bed, and every page with an article of Viktor bookmarked.”

“Oh my God, how did you even find those?” Yuuri buried his head in his hands, wanting to just disappear, but the warm hand on his shoulder helped him to remember he was only joking and he looked up to see the grin on his best friend’s face.

“You didn’t exactly hide them,” Phichit shrugged, and Yuuri knew that he was right, he’d left them hanging out from under his bed for anyone to see; he made a mental note to move them when he got home in case his parents found them and joined in, “you left me in your room with nothing to do while you went in the shower, I had to find something to keep myself entertained.”

“You’re banned from my room.” Yuuri deadpanned, shaking his head to hide the redness of his cheeks, but Phichit only pouted at him and dramatically sighed.

“But Yuuri, how will we finish your poster collection? The rest are supposed to arrive any day now.”

 Yuuri had almost forgotten about Phichit’s gifts, and truthfully, he was excited to see them; although it was slightly embarrassing to have pictures of a boy only a year older than him covering his walls, he couldn’t deny that being able to see him every morning and night – even if they were just pictures – motivated him more and pressed on a certain part of his heart, making him giddy in a way he couldn’t quite describe.

“Fine, once the posters are up, then you’re banned from my room.” Yuuri corrected, laughing as Phichit sighed even deeper and shook his head in a look that could only be described as betrayal.

“So rude. Anyway, don’t you think you should at least give Niki a break from your obsession?” Phichit asked, his question one that held no malice and seemed like genuine advice, “I mean, I’m more than happy to listen to you describe each strand of Viktor’s hair, but maybe someone you barely know won’t feel the same.”

“It’s not an obsession.” Yuuri mumbled, because honestly it wasn’t; sure, he was enthusiastic and wanted to know everything about Viktor, but everyone has idols they feel the same way about. Wasn’t it better for him to have someone to look up to, someone that would unknowingly encourage him to continue skating just by doing it himself, even though he might never know who Yuuri is, or even hear his name?

Viktor was a presence in Yuuri’s life but didn’t know it, didn’t even know that Yuuri existed, but one day he would – at least that was the plan. Yuuri would one day stand at the top of the podium, prove his worth to Viktor and thank him for the influence he’d had on his life. Obviously, in a more ideal scenario, they could be friends; he wanted nothing more than to be allowed to get to know Viktor as not just as the Russian figure skating prodigy, but as just Viktor Nikiforov. Wanted to know his likes and dislikes, what not only made him excited, happy, and how to make him laugh, but also what made him sad, what could change his mood and how to make him feel better.

There were so many things that made Viktor Viktor, and the greedy part of Yuuri wanted to know all of them; not from reading them in a magazine, or hearing them in an interview but to hear them straight from Viktor’s mouth, to experience them with him and discover things that maybe Viktor didn’t even know himself yet.

But Yuuri was getting ahead of himself.

Remembering the colossal gap that still stood between Viktor and himself, he felt his heart deflate abruptly at the realisation that it was quite possible he would never have any of those things; that Yuuri Katsuki might just be another name Viktor would skim over one day in a list of athletes who never made it.

The thought hurt more than he cared to admit, he was painfully aware of the fact that Viktor was so much more talented than him, so much more capable; already making a name for himself within the world of figure skating while Yuuri was yet to even enter a competition - although hopefully that would change soon.

Dragging himself back to the conversation he was supposed to be having with Phichit, he tried to reassure himself that his new friend was actually interested in what he had to say; that he wasn’t just expressing all of his admiration for Viktor to someone who couldn’t care less, “Niki is into skating too, he knows who Viktor is; in fact, he even recognised the routine I sent him, so he must be a fan too.”

Phichit made a small hum of acknowledgement, adjusting the straps on his backpack as he listened, looking thoughtful all the while, before allowing himself to joke once again, “Maybe you have some competition over who knows Viktor better.”

Yuuri only rolled his eyes again, playfully hitting Phichit’s arm in lieu of taking the bait to be pestered about his admiration even further; despite his best friend’s apparent constant need to bring it up in the hopes of getting a reaction out of Yuuri, the two of them knew it was harmless.

“I don’t think Niki minds when I talk about him,” Yuuri shrugged, running a hand through his hair with a nervous chuckle, “and besides, unless he secretly knows Viktor Nikiforov himself and is one day like, ‘Hey, by the way, there’s this Japanese skater called Yuuri Katsuki who’s kind of in love with your skating and watches your programs religiously,’ it’s not like Viktor will ever know.”

 


 

Although there were many, many reasons Yuuri was grateful for his friendship being repaired with Niki, he found that one of the best was his ability to save him from the boredom of lessons once again. 

By the time fourth period had rolled around, Yuuri found himself growing bored, passing the time by rolling his pen between his fingers in the middle of his geography class, while listening absentmindedly. It wasn’t as though he didn’t care about what was being taught, it was that he already knew it; had known it since the first lesson it had been taught, and yet his teacher felt the need to cover it again. Resulting in Yuuri seeking comfort by watching the seconds pass by slowly on the clock hanging on the plain white wall, waiting for a response from Niki, his phone peeking out from under the table.

Thankfully it didn’t take long and his screen lit up with a notification, Yuuri eagerly opened it and was grateful for the distraction it provided.

 

 

Although Yuuri didn’t know it was possible, he discovered that there was a way for him to like Niki even more, and the fact that he also had a love for dogs was the reason for this; he couldn’t help the small twinge of disappointment he felt by being unable to see a photo of it yet, but brushed it off in the knowledge that he would probably see one eventually.

He wondered whether the dog Niki used as his profile photo was his dog, but dismissed it, knowing that it could just be a stock photo and he’d need to just wait and see. Although, the poodle looked familiar, looked like the type Viktor Nikiforov had, and Yuuri pondered on the thought that maybe Niki had the same intentions as he had when buying a dog; that maybe he had seen how cute it looked and needed one for himself too.

Nevertheless, the thought of seeing Niki’s dog brought a smile to his face, as it was an insight into the mysterious life he seemed to live; seeing something so ordinary as his pet meant that Yuuri would be able to see him as a real person, making their interactions feel more personal. He’d be able to have a better idea of the kind of person Niki was, of the life he lived through these kind of small gestures, and Yuuri couldn’t wait.

A small part of him admitted that he hesitated when sharing the name of his own dog, slightly worried that Niki would pick up on the fact that he had named him after Viktor, but luckily it didn’t seem as though it had registered with him. Phichit’s words circulated in his mind, reminding him that not everyone was as interested as he was in Viktor Nikiforov; that not everyone wanted to know him like Yuuri did, and he made a mental note to at least try and refrain himself from talking about him too much in his conversations with Niki.

 

 


 

After a painstaking hour of geography, Yuuri was released for lunch, where he greeted Phichit and the two of them grabbed some food before heading to their new table. Phichit seemed to always have a new story to tell, and Yuuri listened to his friend’s excited voice as he recounted his newest one, which involved a full tube of pva glue, some shredded paper, and a less-than-impressed teacher.

Shaking his head with an amused smile, a soft laugh escaped Yuuri’s lips at Phichit’s antics, wondering how he ever got anything done. Phichit’s grin shifted from one of mischief to one of curiosity as he leaned forward slightly on the table.

“Hey Yuuri,” He began, causing him to look up and meet his eyes and see the hopefulness they held, “I was wondering, now that your parents know about your skating, are you going to enter any competitions?”

“Oh, erm,” Yuuri placed his chopsticks down for a moment, licking his lips before speaking, “maybe? I’m not sure, I mean, my dad said he’ll look into getting me a coach, but I don’t know how long that’ll take. Even then, I have a lot to learn so I have no idea when I’ll be able to actually enter one.”

Phichit nodded along as Yuuri spoke, looking thoughtful for a moment before a reassuring smile graced his face, “You’re already really good though, Yuuri – and before you try and interrupt me and say you’re not, let’s not forget how many people have acknowledged that. So, it probably won’t even take you too long to learn more moves, or at least improve what you can already do.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Yuuri agreed, honestly the thought had crossed his mind, but having someone else tell him the same thing made it easier to believe; Yuuri was by no means under the impression that he would be able to learn how to execute and land a quad perfectly any time soon, but he was feeling confident that at least his singles and doubles would be able to significantly improve once he had the guidance of another person helping him.

“Well, when you do enter a competition, just know that I’ll be on the side lines cheering you on with a huge banner letting everyone know how proud I am of my best friend.”

“Thanks, Phi.” Yuuri couldn’t stop the way his lips were pulled into a smile at Phichit’s words, how much they meant to him, and by the look on his friend’s face, he understood.

“You’re welcome,” Phichit’s gentle expression morphed into one that held a smirk, moving so that his chin was resting on the palm of his hand as he stared at Yuuri through his thick eyelashes, “besides, once you get all big and famous, you can introduce me to all of the big skaters.”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” Yuuri shook his hands in front of him, knowing that it was likely he’d never even get to see those skaters in real life, never mind knowing them so well that that he could introduce Phichit to them. Despite this, he decided to indulge his best friend in his hopeful fantasy, “But on the off-chance that I ever do – which is extremely slim, by the way – I promise I will make sure you meet every single one of them.”

“I love you,” Phichit beamed, before pointing a chopstick at Yuuri with a determined look, “and when I’m all big and famous too, I’ll make sure you actually talk to the skaters you’re too shy to.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Yuuri nodded, knowing that Phichit was probably right and that even if he did make a name for himself, he would probably still feel intimidated and nervous to talk to the older, more experienced skaters.

“Especially Viktor,” Phichit began, and Yuuri wanted to hit his head off the table, wondering why he couldn’t just have a conversation with him without his not-so-subtle crush on the Russian skater being brought to light, “I’ll be the best wingman ever, by the first time you’ve spoken, I guarantee he’ll already be looking at wedding rings.”

“I don’t think that’s how it works, Phichit,” Yuuri mumbled, although he couldn’t help the amusement in his tone at the thought; that was until the reality of meeting him surfaced of his mind, and so did Yuuri’s doubts, “for one, he’s like seventeen, and what if I discover something new about him that changes everything – or worse, what if he learns literally anything about me; one small fact about my boring little life would send him running.”

Yuuri felt a shiver run down his spine when he thought about Viktor learning something about Yuuri that he didn’t like, that he could spend years trying to catch up, only to disappoint Viktor, and in turn himself for being so hopeful. Luckily, Phichit did not share Yuuri’s train of thought, and managed to pull him out of his self-deprecating thoughts before he could spiral and put himself in a bad mood.

“You’re right,” Phichit gasped, placing a hand over his chest and furrowing his eyebrows into a feigned look of concern and worry, “I mean, God forbid that Viktor ever finds out that you have a poodle, or that you wear cute little blue glasses, or even worse,” Phichit leaned closer, glancing around the food hall as if to check no one was listening, before whispering in a hushed tone, ”that you spend your free time helping your family run their business.”

Although Yuuri was only thinking about the negative aspects of his life that could scare Viktor away, he realised that they were only small factors in regards to what made him who he was; that he had interesting and endearing things to share, as well as some that were maybe not so amazing. He was grateful that he had Phichit to remind him of that, to not be given the chance to push himself down further, when instead he could be climbing higher, to adopt a more optimistic outlook on life by looking at it through Phichit’s eyes, not just his own.

“Hey Yuuri…” Phichit whispered, his expression one of the most serious Yuuri had ever seen, and he felt slightly worried upon seeing it, “what if…”

Phichit couldn’t even finish his sentence, and Yuuri watched him swallow the lump in his throat, feeling perplexed at his behaviour, although a part of him knew that this was just his friend being dramatic again, building up to something that was going to be anticlimactic.

“What if he doesn’t like dogs?” Phichit questioned, his eyes wide in feigned fear and Yuuri had to stifle a laugh, resisting the urge to roll his eyes as he gently nudged Phichit’s shin with his foot under the table.

“Phichit, he has dog, of course he likes dogs.” Yuuri felt the need to reassure him, regardless of the fact that he knew Phichit was only exaggerating his worries.

“I’m not even going to ask how you know that,” Phichit said offhandedly, accustomed to the extent of Yuuri’s knowledge on Viktor’s life, “but, you have to marry him in that case.”

“As much as I’d love to,” Yuuri sighed, his cheeks reddening at even the thought, “he doesn’t even know who I am.”

“Well he will soon enough,” Phichit said encouragingly, gently nudging Yuuri’s shoulder with a knowing smile, “and even if that Russian doesn’t work out, you’ve still got Niki.”

Now used to his friend’s relentless teasing, Yuuri only offered a scoff in response, running a hand through his hair with a soft chuckle, “Not this again.”

“Although, we know that Viktor has a dog, but what if Niki doesn’t? Yuuri, you cannot marry someone who does not love and own a dog.” Phichit declared, resting his hands on Yuuri’s shoulders to force him to look into his eyes, to see how strongly he felt about the matter.

Yuuri didn’t comment on the fact that only a month before, Phichit had brushed off his love for dogs in favour of hamsters, feeling the need to inform him that Niki did in fact have a dog, and that there was nothing to worry about – not that Yuuri was ever hoping to marry or even be in a relationship with him in the first place, “Calm down, Niki has a dog.”

“Oh thank God, what breed? What’s their name? Do you have a picture? Can I see?” Yuuri was hit by a barrage of questions from Phichit, his best friend’s excitement leaking out as his eyes glistened in interest; unfortunately, Yuuri could not answer a single one of them, given only the information that it was ‘the cutest dog ever’, after Vicchan – which meant that his expectations were extremely high. The only way Niki’s dog could even think of surpassing Vicchan would be if it was Viktor Nikiforov’s dog herself, which was an impossible feat.

“I um,” Yuuri mumbled, rubbing a hand against the nape of his neck awkwardly, before clearing his throat, “I don’t actually know.”

Phichit stared at him for a moment, his eyebrows pulled tightly together and his eyes narrowed in confusion, “You…don’t know?” He repeated slowly, receiving a small nod of confirmation from Yuuri, “How do you not know? Did he just say he had a dog, and that was the end of the conversation?”

“Kind of,” Yuuri admitted, meeting Phichit’s gaze, “I mean, we were about to talk about it and then he had to go get ready for school.”

“How mysterious.”

“Not really, I didn’t want him to be late; and besides, he said he’ll tell me all about his dog later.” Yuuri explained, not really seeing it as a big deal at all; the two of them just happened to have bad timing and not enough time to talk about it as a result.

Before they could discuss it further – not that there was much to say about it anyway – the bell rang throughout the dining area, and they headed their separate ways to their final lessons of the day.

 


 

Upon arriving home, Yuuri quickly changed out of his school uniform and replaced it with one of the inn’s yukatas, heading downstairs to help out with the many chores that needed doing. His parents greeted him with grateful smiles, his father ushering him into the kitchen to cut the fresh vegetables as he prepared several dishes simultaneously.

Despite the fast pace and the cacophony of sounds that permeated the air; sizzling pans, knives hitting chopping boards and water boiling, Yuuri found it easy to get into the flow of things, his many years of experience making it almost second nature as he sliced into the onions with a practised precision. It was soothing in a way, something he knew how to do, and the thanks that he received from his father as he transferred them into one of the pans left a feeling of satisfaction in Yuuri’s chest as he began to peel a new one.

Toshiya’s ability to keep so many different dishes cooking at the same time, without ever burning any of them had always impressed Yuuri, and as he watched his father navigate between the different pans with ease, never once hesitating as he did so, he found that feeling resurfacing. Not wanting to get too distracted from his task at hand, he reverted to only giving the occasional glance in case he needed assistance with anything else, and focused on creating thin slices, wanting to be as helpful as possible.

His mother entered the kitchen only a few moments later, wiping her forehead with the back of her hand as the heat hit her, before preparing the dishes into bowls and placing them on top of wooden trays, placing a chaste kiss to her husband’s cheek before leaving to serve the guests. A warmth bloomed within Yuuri at the small gesture, expanding even further when he noticed the smile playing on his father’s lips as he resumed his preparations.

After more than an hour had passed, and Yuuri had lost count of how many vegetables he’d sliced and diced, all of the guests had been fed, and his father let out an exhale, leaning back against one of the counters and turning all of the appliances off until they would next be needed.

With a nod of his head, he gestured for Yuuri to head out of the kitchen, and he did so, finding the two of them seats while his father prepared some tea. Only a few minutes later, Toshiya followed, a tray in hand which carried a tea pot and a cup for each of them, which was carefully set down on the low table they sat beside.

“So,” His father began, lifting the pot up with both hands and carefully pouring the hot water into one of the empty cups, Yuuri watching the flow of the water as he did so, waiting for his next words, “I’m assuming you’re still interested in having a coach for your ice skating, yes?”

As he spoke, he handed the cup to Yuuri, who gently wrapped his dainty fingers around it, offering his gratitude before nodding, “Very much so.”

Yuuri slowly brought the cup to his lips, taking a sip and licking his lips to catch the loose droplets, humming at the familiar taste that brought comfort to him, his father making a noise of acknowledgement as he did the same.

“Well, I have some good news,” After spending his entire life around this man, Yuuri could easily tell that he was excited to share it, that he was trying to downplay it, and at the fondness in his eyes as he stared at Yuuri, he was almost certain what he was going to say, “I’ve found you a coach.”

“Already?” Yuuri asked, puzzled by how quickly it had been, after all, he had only informed his parents about his passion for the sport days ago. He had expected them to mull over it for a little while, to discuss it between themselves before committing to paying for something they didn’t necessarily have to; but at the confirmation from his father, a large grin spread across his features and the sight of caused his father to mirror the expression.

“Yes, I spoke to Yuuko’s parents and they recommended someone to me who has a good reputation, so it wasn’t too hard to find someone. I only hope they’re up to your standards.” He explained, and Yuuri placed his tea on the table, making sure his father had done the same before throwing his arms around his neck, repeating his thanks over and over.

Toshiya returned the hug, wrapping his arms around Yuuri’s smaller frame and let out an affectionate chuckle, ruffling his hair before breaking the embrace, Yuuri immediately trying to smooth over the dishevelled strands.

“You’ll have to win us some gold medals though, that’s part of the deal.” He winked, causing Yuuri to giggle, his smile never once fading as he nodded enthusiastically, following his father’s gaze as he looked for places to hang them.

“I’ll try my best.” He promised, curling his hands into fists and squeezing them as they laid on his thighs, knowing that he would make the most out of this opportunity, not wanting to let his parents regret paying for something for even a second.

“That’s all we ask for,” His father assured him, placing a hand atop of Yuuri’s fists and squeezing them kindly, “I asked if he would meet you at the weekend to discuss everything before creating a more official training regimen; does Saturday work for you?”

“Yes,” Yuuri breathed out faster than he could process it, he shifted slightly in his position, clearing his throat and nodding determinedly, “yes, Saturday is perfect, thank you so, so much.”

“Perfect! Well, I’ll let him know, and give you his number in case you have any questions.” Toshiya announced, bracing a hand on the floor as he moved in his position, rising to his feet with a push and offering a hand out for Yuuri to do the same, which he took without hesitation. Their cups were mostly empty, and so Yuuri carried the tray back to the kitchen to clean up, his footsteps feeling lighter in anticipation and excitement.

Once he was dismissed from his duties, he practically ran up to his room, fishing his phone out from where he’d left it in the pocket of his school trousers and setting himself back on the bed, opening up his conversation with Niki, eager to tell him about it.

 

 

 


 

 

Before Yuuri knew it, Saturday had arrived and he had mixed feelings; a part of him was full of excitement, eager to meet his coach, start practising and identify what to work on. But the other part of him was nervous, his anxious thoughts like a dark cloud over his head, whispering things into his ear, causing him to feel uneasy and afraid that he would make a bad impression and mess it all up.

That fear was the worst, because if Yuuri did mess up, it would mean that his coach was unlikely to take him seriously, would deem him as a waste of time before he even really began their training. If his parents saw him mess up they would be disappointed too, would think that it was a waste of money and it was unrealistic, and Yuuri really, really didn’t want that to happen. But mostly, Yuuri didn’t want to disappoint himself, didn’t want to abruptly discover that maybe he didn’t have what it takes after all; that he would never be acknowledged in the skating community, would never get to meet – or even see Viktor in person.

After so many years of hoping that he could, that he wasn’t just fooling himself, a blow to his confidence to him now would hurt more than he’d care to admit. He squeezed his eyes closed as he sat on his bed, his duvet pooling around his legs a he dug the heels of his hands into his eyes, tying to dismiss his thoughts. He took deep breaths, attempting to reassure himself that it would be fine, that he was going to make a brilliant first impression, just like Niki had said, that his coach would be delighted to have him.

As he opened his eyes once again, feeling slightly more at ease by Niki’s earlier words, his eyes fell upon the posters on his wall, his collection now fully displayed as of the previous day when Phichit had arrived, a backpack slung over his shoulder and a smile on his lips as he helped to hang them all up.

The sight of it served as a reminder of why he loved skating so much, of why he needed to impress his coach and continue practising; without these things, he would never be able to meet Viktor, at least not as more than just one of his fans, but rather a competitor, possibly even a friend.

The smile that Viktor was wearing on one of the posters sent a wave of warmth through Yuuri’s body, and he shivered slightly, running a hand through his hair as he felt a smile tugging at his own lips in response. He still didn’t understand how it was possible for a seventeen-year-old to look so utterly perfect, but somehow it was, and as he made his way to the shower to get ready for the day ahead, his tired reflection looking back at him made him cringe as he rubbed his eyes; the stark contrast between the two of them was a reminder of how out of his league Viktor actually was, and Yuuri swallowed, knowing that he would have to give his everything if there was even a little bit of hopes his dreams could be made a reality.

 


 

As Yuuri slid his feet into his trainers by the front door, his gym bag hanging loosely over one shoulder, Mari stood opposite him, leaning against a wall with her arms folded, although her stance was betrayed by the warmth in her eyes.

“Good luck today, kiddo,” She moved from where she was standing, approaching Yuuri and straightening out the lapels of his sport jacket with a fond smile; she pulled him in for a hug and he stayed in the embrace for a moment, as she spoke soothingly, “you’ll blow him away; you’ve already done it to us, so just be confident in yourself, yeah?”

Yuuri nodded, although he knew that as much as he wanted to, he couldn’t just turn his confidence on like a switch whenever he pleased. The two of them broke apart, Mari holding his gaze for a few seconds before ushering him outside.

“Have fun!” She called as Yuuri made his way outside, glancing over his shoulder to offer a wave before pulling out his headphones and placing them into his ears.

Wanting to make a good first impression, Yuuri had decided to jog to the rink, to show his coach that he was serious about their training, that he was ready to put everything he had into their sessions so that he could try and bring home a medal.

The chill of the October breeze bit into his fingers slightly as he ran, and he squeezed them into fists, pulling his sleeves down to offer some shelter as he made his journey. The familiarity of it helped to reassure Yuuri that everything would go fine; reminded him that this was just another day of practising, except this time he had someone to help, someone to guide him and offer advice.

Sooner than he realised, Yuuri was almost at the Ice Castle, and so he decreased his pace; his breaths deep and heavy as he climbed the steps only minutes later, and he pulled his headphones from his ears, bending over to rest his palms on bent knees, the air being dragged into his lungs with slightly more ease.

Wiping his forehead with the back of his hand, he pulled his phone out of his jacket to check the time, only to be greeted with a message along with it, and he found himself smiling as his breath finally evened out.

  

Yuuri sent a short reply, thanking Niki for the message before slipping his phone into his bag and heading inside where he was greeted by Yuuko; she had been flicking through a magazine of some sort before she glanced up at him, instantly pushing it to the side, rising to her feet with an excited grin.

“Yuuri!”

“Hi, Yuuko.” He waved, returning the smile as he made his way over to his usual bench, placing his bag beside him. Yuuri was fifteen minutes early, and he assumed that his coach might want to get on the ice straight away, so he replaced his trainers with his skates, making sure they were laced and fastened securely before glancing at the clock on the wall, his leg beginning to bounce in anticipation.

“Nervous?” Yuuko asked kindly, a gentle and knowing look on her face, and when Yuuri nodded his admittance, she sighed softly, resting against the counter with a softer smile on her lips, “You don’t have anything to be nervous about; as long as you be yourself and try your best, he’ll love you.”

The words of encouragement were similar to Niki’s own, and as he was reminded of their conversation, he felt himself relax a little, the repetition of them reminding him that it really wasn’t a big deal, and that it would be fine – no, it would be great.

“Thank you.”

Reaching into his bag, Yuuri unzipped one of the compartments and pulled out his gloves, sliding them onto each hand with ease, already feeling the chill faintly dissipating as he did so.

It didn’t take long for his coach to arrive, walking in only ten minutes later, shivering slightly as he entered the building and looking around expectantly. Yuuri was on his feet immediately, walking over to him as he offered a bow and held out his hand for him to take.

“Katsuki Yuuri, I assume?” He questioned, an eyebrow raised as his eyes scanned over him and Yuuri shifted slightly under the gaze.

“Yes, thank you for agreeing to meet me Yosano-sensei.” As he shook the other man’s hand, Yuuri took a moment to take in his appearance; he wore a long grey duffle coat that served to cover black slacks and a plain white shirt, a regular tie laying on top that seemed as though it had seen better days, complete with tan brogues that shone under the lights above them. Yuuri was unsure of how old he was, but his guess would be at about fifty; the man’s hair - although mainly black, - had many silver strands littered throughout; his face held some wrinkles, a sign of many years lived filled with laughter and smiles, and at that thought, Yuuri felt some of the tension leave his body at the hope that he would not be as intimidating as he expected.

“You’re very welcome, I’ve been told many great things about you.” He patted Yuuri’s shoulder once their hands had broken apart, warmth in his aged eyes as he gestured for Yuuri to pick up his bag and follow him through the doors, which he did without hesitation.

The coldness that came along with of being so close to the ice was something that Yuuri was used to by now, although the itch to get on it as quickly as possible to get the blood flowing remained, and he stayed only a few steps behind his coach as he was led to a small bench by the side.

The two of them sat for a while, Yuuri explaining the moves he could and couldn’t do; which ones he felt confident on, and others that he could identify as needing more practise. All the while, Yosano listened intently, making notes on a small pad he had pulled from his pocket as Yuuri spoke, tapping his chin with his pencil thoughtfully once he had finished.

“Would you like to show me?” He questioned kindly, motioning to the ice with a small jerk of his head, and Yuuri nodded, rubbing his clammy hands against his track trousers before standing up. Walking to one of the open gates while balancing on his blades was second nature to Yuuri by now, and as he placed a hand on the barrier while bending down to remove his skate guards, he took a deep breath and reassured himself that he knew what he was doing; Yosano was there to support him, and even if he messed up, it just meant they could identify things to work on.

With that thought fresh in his mind, he stepped onto the ice, skating a few laps to warm up and get into the pace of things, before coming to a stop and leaning over the barrier to face his coach, “What should I do?”

“Let’s start small,” He began, flicking back a few pages in his notes and tapping them with the end of his pencil, “I’m sure you’re fine with the very basics, so let’s begin with some toe jumps; singles only.”

With a nod of acknowledgement, Yuuri began to skate again, thinking back to the countless hours he’d spent at Minako’s ballet studio trying to practise the movements before he tried them on the ice; he’d done them hundreds, if not thousands of times and he used his muscle memory as he executed a flawless toe loop, skating another lap before the flip and lutz.

Bringing himself to a stop, he looked over to his coach, who wrote something down before telling him to show him the edge jumps too; all of which Yuuri managed to do without stumbling, earning him a pleased hum.

They repeated the same process with doubles, Yuuri also completing each one to Yosano’s satisfaction as he once again scribbled more notes into his pad. Upon asking Yuuri if had any idea of what he’d like to include in a program, he received a shy nod as he explained that he’d been working on something already, although it still needed a lot of work.

With his interest apparently piqued, Yosano asked Yuuri to show him, and watched with keen eyes as he went through the movements, focusing especially hard on his step sequence as he felt it was one of his strengths, and if there was anything that could win him over, it would be that.

Despite the lack of music playing, Yuuri had listened to the song so many times that he could almost hear it as he worked through his program, his graceful movements feeling as though he was pulling the sounds out of his very own body; he glided across the ice, turning with extended arms and letting the familiar choreography lead him to the end of his performance, his eyes glistening hopefully as he waited for Yosano’s reaction.

He was called back off the ice to return to where he had previously been sitting, his coach smiling at him with an impressed expression on his face as he complimented Yuuri; a small blush dusted his cheeks at the praise, and he thanked him profusely.

The two of them proceeded to discuss their plan of action on what would be the best days to practise on, as well as timings and what Yuuri wanted to focus on throughout them. Yosano offered his suggestions on how the program could be improved, and Yuuri nodded in agreement, listening attentively and absorbing every word.

After an extensive list had been made, and several more pages of notes written, his coach informed him that he would be looking forward to their training sessions to follow, and Yuuri agreed with a smile, feeling relieved that he’d managed to impress him.

As they left the rink, Yuuri feeling far more confident after his practise, Yosano was the one to hold out a hand for Yuuri to shake this time, which he did so gratefully as they stood opposite each other.

“You’re a very talented young man, Katsuki Yuuri.” He smiled, honesty clear in his tone, and Yuuri tried not to preen under the weight of the words, especially from someone who had probably seen many skaters in his lifetime, knew what it took to become one, “I have confidence that you have the potential to go very far, so don’t let me down, okay?”

“I won’t.” Yuuri promised, and it was one he intended to keep.

Chapter Text

When Yuuri arrived home, there was a permanent smile on his face, and a warmth that had bloomed in his chest that was yet to dissipate.  He wasted no time in heading to his room to change from his workout clothes and tell Niki all about it, deciding that he would wait until the inn wasn’t too busy to speak to his family.

As he held his phone in hand, he hesitated momentarily when looking at the time; it would be early for Niki, but if he was lucky – really lucky – he might be awake, and so Yuuri shrugged and began typing out a message; besides, he was more than happy to just wait for him to wake up in a couple hours.

With it sent, he dropped his phone onto his bed and grabbed a towel, making his way to the bathroom to freshen up after practising for so long; when he emerged from the shower minutes later, he felt significantly better, a calmness resting over his body as he let out a deep exhale.

It was at that moment that his phone chimed, and he eagerly retrieved it from where it was laying, a swipe of his thumb unlocked it and he was greeted by new messages

 

 

Yuuri had only just slipped his phone into his pocket and rose from the bed when it buzzed against his leg, and with a shake of his head he smiled in amusement at Niki’s antics; he came to the conclusion that that boy would be the death of him as he retrieved it once again, although he was met by a message from Phichit instead.

 

 

Running his hands through his dishevelled and slightly damp hair, Yuuri brushed it backwards with a comb to keep it out of his eyes, before grabbing a grey jumper from his wardrobe, pulling it on and over his plain t-shirt with a swift movement and straightening out any folds in the material. It wasn’t anything impressive, but he wasn’t trying to impress Phichit; he was half certain that he could probably turn up in nothing but a sack, and his best friend would still hype him up about it.  

Grabbing his wallet from the top of his drawers, he tucked it into the pocket of his jeans and headed downstairs to wait, greeting any new guests that entered the inn and offering Mari as much help as he could by the front desk until Phichit arrived. She asked him basic questions about his new coach, to which he replied in as much detail as he felt was needed, explaining that he’d tell her more when he got back from lunch with his friend; Mari nodded, a smile on her lips all the while as she listened intently in between the arrival and departure of guests.

It wasn’t long until Phichit arrived and he excused himself from the desk, heading over to meet him and be greeted with a warm hug and excitable energy; Phichit grabbed him by the hand and practically dragged him out as soon as Yuuri had finished tying the laces of his shoes, speaking rapidly about how hungry he was and that they didn’t have any time to waste.

Rolling his eyes with a laugh, Yuuri only agreed and allowed himself to be pulled along through the quaint streets of Hasetsu, eventually arriving at a café that was in fact on the corner of a street, just as Phichit had so elegantly described.

“Wow, I can’t believe I didn’t know which one you meant.” He remarked with a smirk, looking around at the array of cafés that littered the street, earning a scoff from Phichit as he led them inside, seating them at one of the smaller tables in the corner that rested beside a window.

The two of them opened the menus and scanned their eyes over it, Yuuri choosing a healthy option as to not undo his hard work that morning, while Phichit chose the greasiest option he could find; once their orders were placed, and they each had a glass of cool water in front of them, Phichit rested his chin in the palm of his hand and grinned up at Yuuri.

“So,” He began, almost bouncing in his spot as he offered a curious look, “tell me all about it?”

“Okay, what do you want to know?” Yuuri questioned, unsure of what there even was to tell, although he was more than happy to squeeze every little detail out when he saw how happy Phichit was for him.

“Well,” Phichit hummed thoughtfully, his eyebrows pulled together slightly before a stream of questions poured from his lips, “for starters, what’s his name? What does he look like? Is he old?”  

“His name is Yosano, although I don’t know what his given name is,” Yuuri began to list off his answers, bringing the cold glass to his lips and taking a sip before continuing, “I’d say he’s old, but not like old old. Like, in his fifties maybe? I don’t know how to describe him, I guess he looks kind of like my dad, although not really.”

“Wow, ‘kind of like your dad, but not really’? I can see his face so perfectly, what ever would I do without that vivid description?” Phichit’s sarcasm had rubbed off on Yuuri lately, and although he swore it might be a bad thing, he couldn’t help but laugh when he saw the deadpan expression on his face.

“I know, I know, I’m useless sorry,” He waved a hand dismissively at his earlier description, worrying his lip between his teeth before shrugging in defeat, “I don’t know, just like, make something up in your head, I’m sure you’ll see him sometime soon anyway so just wait until then.”

“Incredible.” Phichit mumbled, shaking his head in disbelief at Yuuri, and he only grinned innocently back, focusing his attention on the condensation that had formed on the side of his glass, “So, what did you do?”

Yuuri began to explain everything to Phichit, recounting all that he could in as much detail as he remembered, knowing that his best friend was lapping up every word of it; Phichit’s gaze was fixed on Yuuri the entire time, showing his keen interest, and it only encouraged him further, his tone become even more excited as he thought back on the previous hours.

“So what happens now? Are you entering a competition?” Phichit inquired, an eyebrow raised in question as he took a sip from his own glass.

“I’m not sure to be honest,” Yuuri shrugged, “I missed the sign-up date for the qualifiers by like, a long time, so I have no idea.”

“Oh, well whenever you do enter one, you’ll be amazing.” Phichit grinned, nudging Yuuri’s leg gently under the table and earning a soft smile in return.

“Thanks, but I still have a lot to learn and refine.” He sighed wistfully, his words serving as a reminder for how far behind Viktor he was, how far he still had to go.

“You’ll have to teach me what you know,” Phichit smirked playfully, wagging his finger at him, “we can’t have you leaving me in the dust and making a new best friend at all those fancy banquets.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Yuuri gasped, placing a hand over his heart with a look of feigned hurt painted on his features; he hummed in thought, raising an eyebrow at Phichit, “What about Viktor?”

“What about him?”

“What if, on the one in a billion chance that it has of happening, for some reason he comes up to me and asks me to be his best friend?”

“Good question,” Phichit acknowledged with a nod of his head, rubbing his index finger and thumb over his chin in thought, “I’m not particularly worried about that happening - given that you probably wouldn’t be able to talk to him without, like, combusting or something – but, if it does, I guess he can be your very good friend. Not best friend, because that’s still entirely reserved for me – but very good friend.”

“That’s fair.” Yuuri agreed, a smile playing on his lips as he took a long gulp from his drink.

“Unless, of course, you two end up upgrading to boyfriends, then I guess that would be a fair substitute.” Phichit said offhandedly, an innocent glimmer in his eyes as he watched Yuuri’s cheeks flush with colour and began spluttering on his drink, his eyes wide with embarrassment.

After what felt like coughing up a lung, Yuuri cleared his throat and wiped the small tears that had formed in his eyes, shooting daggers at Phichit, “Maybe I’ll make him my best friend just to spite you.”

Yuuri,” Phichit pouted, sticking his lower lip out and pulling his eyebrows into a frown, “you love me too much to do that.”

“That’s true,” Yuuri sighed, trying not to laugh at the ridiculously exaggerated expression on Phichit’s face, “okay, whatever I take it back.”

Their meals arrived shortly after and they both ravenously dug in, Phichit describing his rather uneventful morning of watching some American TV drama to practise his English before cleaning out his hamsters’ cage – trying to convince Yuuri that they missed him and he should visit more often, not that he needed much convincing and nodded happily in agreement.   

They say that time flies when you’re having fun, but upon looking at the small clock on the wall, Yuuri swore that Phichit had a way of manipulating time itself, when he found that several hours had passed despite it feeling like less than one; his eyes widened as he realised he was meant to be at the inn to help out in a few minutes, and he spluttered an apology as he paid his bill, the two of them leaving the small café and parting ways, promising to text each other later.

 


 

In the weeks that followed, Yuuri threw himself into his practice with every ounce of energy he could find, wanting to improve his ability and know that he was doing everything he could to succeed. Eventually, he found that he was even running through movements in his head as he drifted asleep, mapping out the ice rink and imagining himself skating his newly refined short program.

Yosano’s advice and input had been priceless, something which Yuuri was more and more grateful with each and every day as he noticed the way it now flowed almost seamlessly, no longer awkward in places.

Together, they had been developing a free program – although Yuuri knew that in reality, he had only nodded and agreed with his coach’s ideas and thoughts. Nevertheless, Yosano seemed to understand Yuuri’s meekness, being patient with him as they worked, growing to develop his understanding of Yuuri as a person and using these thoughts to base the theme on.

He had carefully incorporated these things into the program, and Yuuri was thankful for having a coach who wouldn’t reprimand him for second guessing, but instead use it to help him grow, to help him be surer of himself and use the opportunity to prove how strong he was, not just as an athlete, but as a person too.

Overall, they had mutually agreed that his skating should reflect his potential, that he was new, and fresh and ready to take the skating world by storm – or at least try.

It was late October when Yosano had to step out of one of their practise sessions to answer a phone call, Yuuri leaning over the barrier and still trying to catch his breath after a particularly energetic attempt at perfecting the free program.

He could feel each rise and fall of his chest, and his legs were shaking slightly beneath him as he reached out to grab his water bottle, letting the cool liquid stream down his throat as he listened to his heartbeat pounding in his ears.

“Really?”

Yosano’s hopeful voice travelled through the rink and Yuuri turned his attention to where his coach was standing in the corner, his phone balanced between his shoulder and ear as he hastily scribbled something down on his notepad.

“I’m sorry that happened, but thank you so much.”

Although he couldn’t see him, Yuuri gave his coach an inquisitive look, bringing his water bottle to his lips once more and taking a few gulps as he watched him end the call, heading over with a smile tugging at his lips.

“Good news.” He stated vaguely, the small bounce in his step not going unnoticed by Yuuri, who only deepened his look of confusion by drawing his eyebrows together, gesturing for him to explain.

“I managed you get you a spot in the qualifying championships! I sent them some videos of you practising your programs a week or so ago, and when one of the skaters had to pull out due to an injury, they offered you a chance to prove yourself.”

Yuuri had to take a moment to process his coach’s words, his heart rate picking up as he saw the excitement almost radiating from Yosano’s features, “Are you serious?”

“Yes, of course I am.”

“But, the championships are only-“

“- a week away, I know.” Yosano cut him off with a wave of his hand, reaching out to place them on Yuuri’s shoulders and force him to look up into his eyes, “I wouldn’t have accepted the offer if I didn’t think you could do this, Yuuri. I know you’re ready, but do you think you’re ready?”

Did Yuuri think he was ready?

Probably not.

But if Yuuri was honest with himself, he wasn’t entirely sure whether he would ever feel like he was ready; sure, he knew he wanted to compete, but until now it had been a concept, something abstract that he would have to worry about in the future. Apparently the future was happening earlier than he’d anticipated, and something twisted in his stomach, a ripple of fear running through his bloodstream at the thought of messing up in front of people.

Realistically, Yuuri knew that he probably was ready, that he had a high enough success rate in completing his programs with little to no mistakes to be able to not mess up at the competition; that didn’t stop the nagging voice at the back of his mind, however, the one that made him doubt his ability, doubt everything he knew about his skating.

From somewhere else came another voice, a gentle whisper that sounded like his family, like Phichit, like Niki; it was one that filled him with compliments and reassurances, reminded him of what he could achieve, what he had to gain, what little he had to lose. He allowed himself to listen to it, to let its tendrils wrap around him and his doubts and push them away, replace them with optimism rather than fear.

As he looked past his coach’s shoulder and fixed his attention on the stands, he imagined what it would be like if this was another rink, the rink of the Grand Prix Final; Yuuri allowed himself to envision Viktor standing opposite, watching him skate his programs and actually acknowledging him - or even being impressed if he was being extra hopeful.

Although he still couldn’t put a face to his new friend, he imagined a figure standing beside Viktor, pictured Niki in abstract thoughts of jokes, laughter and smiles encouraging him and congratulating him alongside his idol. He saw Phichit there too, side eyeing Niki suspiciously, before cheering even louder because he was Yuuri’s best friend, and a warmth blossomed within Yuuri as he finally turned to his coach with a grin.

“I’m ready.”

“I was hoping you’d say that.” Yosano looked almost relieved at Yuuri’s confirmation, his hands moving back to lay down by his sides as he gave an approving nod.

“Thank you for this opportunity coach, I won’t let you down.” Yuuri declared, determined. He tightly gripped the barrier with both hands, feeling it ground him and assure him that he was correct, that he could do it.

“I know you won’t.” Yosano agreed softly, his voice gentle, “Now show me.”

With a sharp nod of his head, Yuuri pushed himself away from the edge of the rink and headed to the centre, waiting for his coach to start the music before giving his all without hesitation. He thought that he’d been putting everything he had into these programs before, but now that he knew he was working towards something solid, had somewhere to prove his ability, he found that he had newfound energy, something to drive him even further, to push even harder.

Luckily, to practise his skill in developing programs, Yosano had suggested they use the guidelines for that year’s grand prix when creating his short program; it was a decision that had paid off apparently, as Yuuri already had all the required elements and there was no need to change it for the competition.

He knew his short program inside out, could probably skate it with his eyes closed if he needed to, but his free program still needed work; his coach had said that he wasn’t portraying his emotions enough, and so as Yuuri ran through it with new inspiration of seeing his friends and family at the rink side, he tried to express those thoughts in each turn of his arm and flick of his wrist.

As the music came to a close, Yuuri held his arms in front of him, signalling an offer of himself to the skating world just as they had agreed upon; Yosano’s applause echoed through the now silent rink, his slow and steady claps meaning just as much as any of his speeches could and Yuuri turned to him with a grin.

“That was excellent, Yuuri. Now go home and rest, we don’t need you getting an injury too.”  With a jerk of his head towards the exit, he left no room for argument and Yuuri stepped off the ice, brushing the ice shavings from his blades before covering them with his guards and heading to one of the benches to change into his sneakers.

After being dismissed and thanking his coach, Yuuri pulled his bag over his shoulder and left the Ice Castle, the chill of the October breeze biting into his skin as he pulled his jacket tighter around himself with a shiver. Digging his hand into his pocket, he retrieved his phone and pulled one glove off his hand with his teeth, unlocking the device and scrolling through his contacts to find Phichit’s name.

Unsurprisingly, he answered after only a few rings and his chirpy voice permeated the quiet air, “Hi, Yuuri!”

“Hey, Phi.” Yuuri couldn’t help the smile that was playing on his lips, and apparently it had transferred in his tone, because his best friend picked up on it immediately.

“What’re you so happy about?” He asked curiously, although there seemed to be a hint of scepticism laced in his voice, “Oh no, should I be worried? Are you plotting a revenge on me or something? Because if you are Yuuri, let me just apologise for all of those times I teased you about-“

“-Calm down.” Yuuri cut him off with a chuckle, rolling his eyes as he hummed thoughtfully, “I’m not plotting revenge for anything, although maybe I will if it makes you apologise for teasing me.”

“Don’t count on it,” Phichit scoffed, “anyway, so are you going to tell me, or…?”

“Oh yeah, sorry,” Yuuri laughed, running a hand though his messy post-practice hair, “I have some good news; Yosano-sensei got me a place in the qualifying championships for the Grand Prix.”

“Oh my God!” Phichit exclaimed excitedly, and Yuuri winced, moving his phone away from his ear slightly, “That’s incredible Yuuri, are you serious?”

“Yeah, apparently one of the skaters had to drop out because they injured themselves, so they offered me a spot to stand in.” He explained, feeling bad for the skater who got hurt, despite the fact that he’d opened up an opportunity for Yuuri.

“That sucks for him,” Phichit mused, also sounding like he felt pity towards him, before his liveliness reappeared only seconds later, “but, this is amazing for you! Do you want to go out for food and celebrate or something?”

“Thanks for the offer, but I think I’m just going to go home; you’re more than welcome to come over though – you know how much my parents love you.” Yuuri smiled, the two of them were well aware of how much his mother adored Phichit, always fussing over him each time he came over, always asking Yuuri how he was and when they would next be seeing him. To anyone outside, looking in on the family, it would seem as though the Katsukis had three children rather than two – not that Yuuri was complaining, Phichit was like a brother to him anyway.

“I know,” Phichit giggled, sounding pleased with himself, “I may as well be called Katsuki Phichit at this point. But yeah, sure I’d love to come!”

“Alright, great, I’m sure my parents will be over the moon.” Yuuri was already picturing his mother’s smile at the news, the way she’d be trying to make the inn look even more like an inn to impress Phichit and make him feel at home, “See you at like four?”

“Sounds good to me, yeah, I’ll see you then.” Phichit agreed, the two of them exchanging goodbyes before hanging up shortly after.

 


 

When Yuuri arrived home, he quickly showered and changed into one of the inn’s yukatas, ready to help his family with the chores once he had finished telling Niki the good news too.

When Yuuri headed downstairs and told his family about the news, he was instantly encompassed by their hugs, a tower around him which spoke in excited voices and when he saw the tears forming in his mother’s eyes, he was quick to wave his hands in front of him dismissively.

“It’s really not that big of a deal,” he explained, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly, “I probably won’t even make it to the Grand Prix series, so don’t get your hopes up.”

“Oh Yuuchan, I can’t help it, my baby boy is growing up.” Hiroko said softly, gently running her hand down Yuuri’s arm, “It doesn’t matter how well you do, we’ll still be proud of you.”

“Thank, mama.” Yuuri smiled, placing his own hand over his mother’s and giving it a light squeeze.

“Shall we have pork cutlets tonight?” Yuuri’s father asked, his hands resting on his hips and a fond smile on his lips; Yuuri only shook his head and averted his eyes to the floor with a small laugh.

“Ah, no thank you. I’ll use them as motivation to do well; if I make the podium can we have them? Or if I don’t, can I have one to drown my sorrow?”

Mari scoffed, wrapping an arm around Yuuri and ruffling his hair with her free hand, “None of that, you’ll do great buddy.”

“I hope so.” he sighed, trying to push down any fears that were trying to uprear their heads; as he made eye contact with his mother once again, he was reminded of his earlier conversation and cleared his throat, “By the way, Phichit is coming over, that’s okay, right?”

Yuuri swore he could feel the shift in the room as his words registered with his parents, his mother’s eyes widened and her mouth was instantly pulled into a large grin as she turned to her husband, who was wearing a similar expression.

“Of course! You know how much I love Phicchan!” She exclaimed excitedly, ushering her husband into the kitchen so the two of them could begin preparing meals, leaving Yuuri and Mari alone to see to any lingering guests and tidy any pots that had been left out.

“I feel like I have two brothers.” Mari chuckled, shaking her head in amusement as they listened to their mother fussing over what to make, what Phichit would like; Yuuri smiled in response, nodding in agreement as he started to collect empty bowls from the tables.

Less than half an hour later, there was a knock on the door and Yuuri rushed to get it, being tackled into a hug by his best friend as soon as he was spotted and he returned the gesture, patting Phichit’s back awkwardly.

Phichit congratulated Yuuri once again, his giddiness leaking from his tone and before Yuuri knew it, his mother was standing beside him with open arms for his best friend, and Phichit eagerly accepted the hug from Hiroko.

“Hey, mama.” He greeted, Mari scoffing once again with a smile as she watched.

“You know he’s not really your son, right?” She asked their mother, an eyebrow raised as if she wasn’t entirely sure Hiroko understood.

“Hush,” she waved dismissively, holding Phichit at arm’s length and brushing his hair away from his eyes, “he may as well be, I’d be honoured to have a son like Phichit.”

“Thanks.” Yuuri rolled his eyes, trying to supress the smirk on his lips as his mother swatted at him.

“Yuuri,” Phichit whispered, his eyes glistening with mirth at the scene before him, “can your family adopt me?”

“I feel like they already have.” He chuckled, watching as his father entered and greeted Phichit with a hug too; it was Toshiya who finally suggested that it was time they ate, and everyone agreed, sitting down at their family’s reserved table and falling into easy conversation.

The meal didn’t last long, but even after each dish was gone, and there were no scraps to be seen, the family continued to chat and talk about everything and nothing; Phichit slotted into the conversations with ease, and Yuuri just sat back and observed, taking sips of his tea as he nodded along and smiled, feeling content and a distinct warmth in his chest.

It was at times like these that Yuuri remembered how grateful he was for his friends and family, that he was reminded of how much support he had around him, and when he heard a chorus of laughter erupt from the table, and the smiles that were littered in front of him, he knew he was going to do everything he could to make them proud.   

Chapter Text

In the days leading up to the competition, Yuuri was nervous – very nervous. His coach had to practically drag him off the ice on more than one occasion, muttering something about not wanting Yuuri to get injured when he was so close.

Yuuri, however, didn’t share the same sentiment - of course he didn’t want to get injured -, but he felt like the more he practised, the less of a chance that had of happening; nevertheless, he didn’t voice this, knowing better than to argue with his coach when he had far more experience.

The night before the competition, Phichit had insisted on sleeping over to try and help Yuuri control his nerves, and to make sure he actually got some sleep in preparation for the next day. Of course there was also an element of practicality; the fact that Phichit was in the same place meant they could set off together and not have to worry about where and when they would meet to catch the train. Despite this, Yuuri appreciated the gesture, knowing that having his best friend and his positivity surrounding him would help to soothe the sinking feeling that was sure to come.

It was eight o’clock when he arrived, Yuuri opening the door to be met with all smiles and a tight hug as he was bombarded with reassurances and Phichit’s excited rambling. Already feeling the warmth beginning to bloom in his chest, Yuuri allowed his lips to quirk into a smile as he led the two of them to his room, laying out a futon for Phichit to sleep on later as his friend made himself comfortable on Yuuri’s own bed.

Once everything was set up and ready, Yuuri joined Phichit where he was sitting, crossing his legs under him and leaning against the headboard as he listened to Phichit tell him all about his day. He understood that this was a way for him to try and take Yuuri’s mind off the following day, and he was grateful for it when he noticed the slight tightness in his chest had slowly started to dissipate with each passing minute.

“Anyway, and then my parents told me that my hamsters had to stay upstairs, because apparently they don’t appreciate having to lift and rearrange furniture when they hide underneath it.” Phichit finished his story with a smile and a soft chuckle, his eyes glinting with humour and Yuuri found that he was laughing softly too, picturing the scene as he shook his head in amusement.

“Who knew such tiny creatures could cause a ruckus?”

“They must take after their papa.” Phichit declared proudly, resting a hand over his heart as he wiped a non-existent tear from his eye with his other.

Rolling his eyes, Yuuri nudged him gently, knocking their knees together, “Phichit, you know that’s not how parenting works, right? Like, you’re not actually their father?”

A scandalised gasp escaped Phichit’s mouth and he turned to face Yuuri with wide eyes, a look of feigned hurt written on his features, “Yuuri, how could you say something like that?”

“I’m sorry, I just thought you needed to face the truth at some point.” He said with a shrug, trying not to let the smirk on his lips betray him as he watched Phichit’s expression morph from offense to amusement once again.

“I guess you’re right, although, they do still take after me. That’s a fact.” Phichit wagged a finger in Yuuri’s face, and he nodded in agreement, drawing his eyebrows together to give the impression that he was taking this very seriously.

“I’ll be sure to put it in your biography.”

“I should hope so.”

The two of them sat in a comfortable silence for a while, smiles still tugging at their lips and Yuuri shifted in his position, deciding to lay down instead to be more comfortable and Phichit followed. They laid facing each other, Yuuri stuck between not knowing what to say, and feeling as though he didn’t even need to say anything.

“So…” Phichit began, breaking the quiet of the room, his tone had turned soft as he licked his lips and gave Yuuri a reassuring smile, “How’re you feeling?”

“I’m okay.” Yuuri said reflexively, although when he took a moment to truly think about it, he found that’s actually how he was feeling - in that moment at least.

It was inevitable that tomorrow he would be nervous, would feel his anxiety swirling in the pit of his stomach as it poured doubts into his mind, but as he laid in the quiet of his room, with his best friend by his side offering all the support he needed, and knowing his family was just downstairs and shared the same sentiment, he found that he wasn’t afraid. Not yet.

Phichit raised an eyebrow at him, now used to Yuuri’s empty reassurances and it was clear he had his doubts on the truth behind his words, “How’re you really feeling?”

“I’m good, really.” Yuuri said with more conviction, meeting Phichit’s gaze in the hopes that it would make it more believable, “Thank you for being here.”

“I’m glad, and it’s fine.” Phichit seemed to accept Yuuri’s words, nodding, “Thank you for letting me be here, and thank you for letting me come with you tomorrow.”

“You wouldn’t have taken no for an answer anyway.” Yuuri laughed, a grin forming and growing as he noticed the way Phichit was mirroring his expression.

“That’s true.” He agreed with a mischievous glint in his eyes, “After all, I need to hold up my banner and make sure everyone knows how great my best friend is.”

“You didn’t really make a banner did you?” Yuuri asked with uncertainty, not sure whether this was just Phichit saying things, or whether his best friend would actually do that – it was more than likely the latter.

“Of course I did.” Phichit scoffed, looking at Yuuri as though he couldn’t believe he would even doubt such a thing. “It says ‘Go Katsuki Yuuri! (best friend of Phichit Chulanont)’”

“No it doesn’t.” A laugh escaped Yuuri’s lips, and he rolled his eyes at the pout that he was met with.

“Okay, you got me there.” He shrugged, dropping the look of hurt instantly, “But I did make a banner, just the usual inspirational stuff. I’m saving the best friend one for the Grand Prix so I can reach a bigger audience.”

“You’re wasting your time.” Yuuri said offhandedly, not even thinking twice before brushing off his ability, and he heard a long-suffering sigh come from beside him, watching as Phichit ran a hand down his face.

“Yuuri. I’m going to ask you a question, and all you have to do is answer it, okay?” He asked simply, making eye contact with Yuuri and refusing to drop it.

“Okay.” Yuuri asked with some confusion, not sure where Phichit was going with this.

“Who’s the best figure skater in the world?”

“Viktor Nikiforov.” He replied without hesitation, wondering what this was leading towards.

Phichit looked mildly annoyed for a split second, before his look turned considering and he shook his head in agreement, “Okay then, who’s the best figure skater in Japan?”

“Yamato Tamura?” Yuuri drew his eyebrows together, wondering if this was a trick question, although technically he was right – he had won the most recent Japanese National competition after all.

“Oh my go– okay then, who is the best figure skater in Hasetsu?

“Phichit Chulanont.”

Phichit groaned, shaking his head before poking Yuuri’s chest with his index finger, “Wrong answer, the correct answer is Yuuri Katsuki; and don’t you forget it.”

“Well to be fair, there aren’t that many figure skaters in Hasetsu so…” Yuuri shrugged, dismissing himself once again and Phichit shot him an unimpressed look.

Yuuri,” he whined, throwing his head back in slight frustration, “you know what I mean, now have a little faith.”

“I know, I know, I’m sorry. It’s just a habit I guess, it happens a lot when I get nervous.” Yuuri worried his lip, casting his gaze downwards as he turned his attention to where his fingers were playing with the ends of his jumper sleeves, twisting them as a way of harbouring the small wave of anxiety that had appeared.

“I know,” Phichit smiled softly, apparently noticing Yuuri’s actions as he moved to interlink their hands and give them a gentle squeeze, “that’s natural, but you have to use that nervous energy to your advantage, embrace it rather than ignore it because that’ll only make it build up and get worse.”

“Okay, I’ll try.” Yuuri swallowed, sighing as he averted his gaze once again and began to voice his doubts, “I’m just so scared I’ll mess up, because it’s not just myself I’m letting down. I’ll be letting down you, my coach, my family – even Niki. What if it all goes wrong?”

“Oh Yuuri,” Phichit sighed softly, gently rubbing the back of his hand with his thumb, “you could never let us down. It’s only your first competition, so no one expects you to be perfect – besides, you didn’t even know you were going to be in it until a few weeks ago. Even if it all goes horrifically wrong – which it won’t – we’ll all be here with open arms; as long as you try your best no one will care what the outcome is. We’re all so proud of you.”

“Thank you, Phichit.” Yuuri smiled, pushing back the small tears that were threatening to make an appearance at his best friend’s words; he received a squeeze of his hand in response and a cheerful grin.

“What are best friends for?”

They strayed away from the topic of the competition after that, Phichit pulling out his phone and searching for things to distract them; in no time at all they found themselves on a website that supposedly would supply them with mind blowing facts that would change their lives forever.

“Hey Yuuri, did you know that the surface area of Russia is almost the same as Pluto’s?” Phichit asked, looking up from the webpage with his mouth hanging open slight disbelief and Yuuri narrowed his eyes, unsure of whether or not to believe him.

“Sounds fake.”

“No, look, it says here that Pluto is like 17.65 million square kilometres, and Russia is 17.08. My brain hurts, I didn’t realise Pluto was that small, or Russia was that big.”

“I still don’t know if I believe you.” Yuuri admitted sceptically.

“Do you believe NASA? NASA, Yuuri!” He exclaimed, shoving the phone in Yuuri’s face where he read a snippet from the article and shrugged, accepting that it could be true after all.

“I wonder if Niki knows.” Phichit said thoughtfully, before he looked at Yuuri with wide eyes again, “Wow, can you believe you have the same chance of finding him on Pluto as you do in Russia?”

“You’re right,” Yuuri said sarcastically, feigning a shocked gasp, “I’m sure the Niki who’s living on Pluto is having a great time.”

“That’s not what I meant and you know it.” Phichit laughed, shoving him playfully, “Although, if there was another Niki on Pluto, my point still stands.”

“Okay, yeah sure.”

“Ask him.” Phichit nodded towards where Yuuri’s phone was laying between them on the bed, an expectant look on his face.

“What? No, I’m not going to ask him that.”

“Fine, I will.” Phichit shrugged, quickly retrieving the device and unlocking it, causing Yuuri to regret ever telling him the passcode; trying to get it back, the two of them engaged in a spontaneous wrestle. Although it looked hopeful for Yuuri at first, after a few minutes of them alternating of who had the upper hand, it ended with Phichit flopping on top of him and refusing to get up, holding Yuuri in place as he opened up the app as small giggles bubbled from his throat all the while.

“Oh my god, don’t embarrass me please.” Knowing that it was pointless trying to convince Phichit to return his phone, Yuuri opted for bargaining instead, hoping that this wouldn’t end badly.

“Don’t worry, I’ll tell him it’s me.”

Yuuri watched Phichit typing away on his phone, smiling to himself as he read and wrote responses to Niki. Not knowing what was being said was frustrating, and he tried to wiggle out from his friend’s body weight but gave up when he didn’t make any progress.

Yuuri felt his eyes on him and looked up to see Phichit smirking at him, with a pout on his lips, he offered a glare in response and huffed petulantly when the phone was held out of his reach.

“Don’t worry, I’m not saying anything incriminating.” He tried to reassure Yuuri, patting his cheek, but Yuuri only turned away, deciding that he would rather stare at the wall than Phichit who looked pleased with himself.

A few minutes passed before Phichit spoke again, a grin breaking out on his face as he stared down at Yuuri, “Your Russian boyfriend wants to speak to you.”

Yuuri felt the blush rise to his cheeks, worrying about what had been said and he was quick to grab his phone when it was handed to him and Phichit climbed off, pushing him away and turning his attention to the device.

 

“Okay yeah you’re right, that wasn’t too bad.” Yuuri admitted, sighing with relief; he wasn’t entirely sure what he expected Phichit to say that would be so embarrassing, but he was glad that nothing had come up anyway.

“See? I told you I wouldn’t. Oh ye of little faith.” Shaking his head, Phichit tutted at Yuuri from where he was now seated at the other end of the bed, earning a pillow being thrown at him as Yuuri scoffed.

“Well, are you going to text your boyfriend back, or?” Phichit questioned, his head peeking out from behind the pillow as he stared at Yuuri with a raised eyebrow.

“No, I’m not going to text my boyfriend back, but I am going to text my friend Niki back.” Yuuri rolled his eyes at Phichit’s insistence that they were more than just friends, making sure to emphasise this before finally sending a message.

 

  

 

Yuuri locked his phone and laid back on his bed, draping an arm over his eyes as he felt a grin make an appearance on his face; he heard Phichit snickering from his position on the floor, staring at him with an amused smile as he ran his fingers through Vicchan’s fur.

“What?” He asked slowly, knitting his eyebrows together in confusion as he awaited an answer, shifting to lay on his front so he could face Phichit, his chin resting on the palm of his hand.

“Nothing.” He shrugged it off, shaking his head with a soft smile.

Phichit.” Yuuri narrowed his eyes, a small frown tugging at his lips as he did so.

“Okay, fine whatever. It’s just cute how happy you always are when you’re talking to Niki. I’ve noticed it for a while now, but that was really cute.” He waved a hand towards Yuuri, and he could already feel the redness blossoming on his cheeks. He hadn’t thought that Phichit may have been watching him; he had assumed that he would be too engrossed in giving Vicchan all of his attention to give Yuuri a second glance while he was typing away.

“I’m happy when I’m talking to you too, friends are supposed to make each other happy.” Yuuri deflected, and Phichit was about to make a remark – a teasing one no doubt – when a long yawn ripped through Yuuri and he placed a hand over his mouth, needing to blink several times once he was done.

Whatever Phichit was going to say apparently died on his tongue as he glanced between Yuuri and the clock, standing up from his spot and ushering him into bed. Yuuri scoffed as he was told to get under the covers and Phichit tucked him in, apparently loving the role of being a mother hen, making sure several alarms were set and Yuuri had placed his glasses on his bedside table.

“You have a big day ahead of you tomorrow Yuuri, you need all the rest you can get.” Phichit declared, causing Yuuri to grimace slightly and curl into the covers with a small whine.

“Ugh, don’t remind me.” He sighed, squeezing his eyes closed, as if that would somehow change his plans for tomorrow.

“You’ll be amazing, but to do that you need to sleep.” Phichit whispered, making his way over to his futon after flicking the light switch off and setting the room in darkness.

Yuuri nodded, despite knowing that his friend wouldn’t be able to see the gesture. He may not be as incredible as everyone was making him out to be, but he knew that there was no chance he could be even half of that if he was dead on his feet all day, and so he allowed the reassurances of everyone’s words swirl around in his mind in the hopes that they would at least dampen his fears.

He listened as Phichit got himself comfortable, rustling the covers as he moved his positions until finally letting out a content sigh, “Goodnight Yuuri.”

“Goodnight Phichit.”

 


 

 

To Yuuri’s surprise, somehow he managed to sleep through the whole night; he had assumed that his anxiety would leave him tossing and turning for hours, losing valuable sleep time in exchange for staring at the ceiling and walls until the sun rose and gave him permission to start his day.

Fortunately, this was not the case, and instead Yuuri was awoken by the ringtone of his alarm playing through his bedroom; the uplifting tune seemed far too positive when all he wanted to do was go back to sleep and ignore his responsibilities of the day.

Reluctantly opening his eyes, he squinted at the light as he reached out to silence the alarm, hitting the snooze button as he sunk his head back into his pillow and pulled his duvet tighter around himself with a pleased hum.

When Yuuri was awoken a second time, less than five minutes later, it was not to an alarm, but to something poking his cheek. He made a noise of protest when he found that his duvet was not able to defend him from it, and as his mind began to make sense of things, he registered that it was in fact a finger that was prodding him awake.

Without opening his eyes, he swatted away the offending finger and rolled over in the hopes that his cheek would be left alone. When a minute had passed, he allowed himself to relax slightly; unfortunately, Phichit had other plans and returned, although this time he began to poke the back of Yuuri’s neck where it was exposed, and as he tried to wiggle away, he heard Phichit’s giggles pierce the otherwise silent room.

He mumbled what he hoped would communicate to him to stop, but the earliness of the day left his words tangled and unintelligible and he felt the bed drop as Phichit sat beside him.

“Come on sleepy head, it’s time to wake up.” Phichit whispered encouragingly, and had it been at any other hour of the day, Yuuri probably would have interpreted it as such, but when all he wanted to do was to keep sleeping, it was one of the worst things anyone had ever said to him.

“Is it too late to pull out?” Yuuri inquired, his sleep laden brain genuinely considering removing himself from the competition, especially if it meant that he could just close his eyes for another hour or two.

“There’s an innuendo in there, but I’m too tired to make one. But yes, it’s too late so get up and get ready.”  The bed shifted once again and Yuuri heard footsteps padding across his room, soon followed by the sound of blinds being abruptly pulled open and he whined as light flooded the room, attempting to bury his head deeper into his covers to avoid it.

Phichit sighed deeply from where he was standing, and Yuuri heard him approaching once again before a gasp escaped his lips upon being exposed to the chill of his room, his eyes snapping open to see Phichit holding his duvet in his hands with a smirk.

Yuuri groaned as he finally pushed himself into a sitting position, brushing his fringe from his eyes and his messy hair backwards as he yawned, stretching his arms above his head. Phichit dropped his covers on the other side of the room to prevent him from going back to sleep, and Yuuri frowned as he watched, although he knew he was only doing what he needed to.

“You can shower first.” Phichit smiled, handing Yuuri a towel and the fresh set of clothes he’d laid out the night before, gently pulling him from the bed and towards the shower.

Yuuri was struggling to keep his eyes open, but when the cold jets attacked his skin, he gasped and jumped at the shock of it, dodging out of the way as his body shivered and waited for the temperature to rise. Less than a minute later, the stream of water was much warmer and he let it wash over him, rubbing the shampoo through his slightly knotted hair and watching as the bubbles disappeared down the drain; he scrubbed his face and stood there for a few moments, hoping that it would help to wake him up more.

When he emerged from the shower in his fresh clothes, he had to admit that he felt significantly more awake and the desire to crawl back into bed and sleep the day away had begun to fade.

Phichit grinned at him as he re-entered the room, standing up from where he was sitting and plugging his phone in to charge before gathering his own clothes and towel and making his way to the shower.

After lazily drying his hair to the point that it was no longer dripping, Yuuri deemed it acceptable and headed downstairs where he was greeted by his family, all of them eagerly waiting for him with two empty spaces for himself and Phichit.

It wasn’t long until his best friend made an appearance, entering the room with a beaming smile as he took his seat, slotting into their family’s domesticity as though he belonged there.

“So, how are you doing?” Mari asked over the table, her expression soft as she regarded Yuuri.

At the question, he straightened in his seat and cleared his throat, offering a reassuring nod and half smile, “I’m good, at least for now.”

Feeling slight pressure on his knee, he looked down to see Phichit’s resting against his own; glancing up at him, he was greeted by a grin and he felt one tugging at his lips to mirror it. The ease that having Phichit beside him brought to Yuuri was one that he refused to take for granted; a few months ago, he would never have pictured himself eating breakfast with his family and best friend the morning of a national competition – not yet at least.

Everyone fell into easy conversation as they cleared their bowls, each of them carefully wording their sentences to avoid causing Yuuri’s anxiety to flare up, and although it may have been slightly patronising, he was grateful nonetheless; he understood that they were doing it out of love, and that panicking so early in the day was not a particularly pleasant idea.

As Yuuri began to collect and stack the empty dishes, carrying them to the kitchen with perfected balance, a knock at the door caught his attention and he hurried to answer it, calling out over his shoulder as everyone turned to look.

“I’ll get it!”

Upon sliding the door open, he was met by the smiling face of his coach and he stepped aside to let him in, greeting him warmly and receiving the same in return.

“Are you two ready to go?” He questioned as he was led further into the inn, glancing between Yuuri and Phichit expectantly after checking the time.

“Yeah, our bags are by the door.” Yuuri supplied, jerking his head towards where they had been placed the previous day in preparation.

“Good.” Yosano nodded before heading over to Yuuri’s parents, more than likely discussing any last-minute details with them before they started their journey. Yuuri and Phichit took the opportunity to go and finish getting ready, brushing their teeth and hair before grabbing their phones from where they had been left to charge, each of them slipping into their coats and lacing their shoes up by the entrance.

Moments later, Yuuri’s coach and parents were stood before them, Yosano tying his own shoes while Hiroko and Toshiya pulled both boys in for a hug.

“Good luck,” Hiroko whispered to Yuuri as they broke the embrace, brushing his fringe away from his eyes and adjusting his crooked glasses, a fond smile on her lips all the while, “remember you’ll make us proud, whether you come first or last. Just have a good time, okay?”

“Okay.” Yuuri nodded, averting his eyes to meet his father’s, who placed a hand on his shoulder and wore the same expression as his mother, however, a playful smirk was playing on his lips.

“Although, a gold medal would look nice on the wall.” He grinned, turning his attention to the empty space on the cabinet and Yuuri laughed, promising that he would try and bring one back.

Yosano coughed politely, informing them that they needed to leave if they were going to make the train on time, and with wide eyes, Hiroko began ushering them out of the door, promising to call Yuuri (and Phichit) later.

 


 

It wasn’t hard to feel optimistic about the day ahead when Phichit was exuberant, an endless stream of excited babbling as they waited to board their train; he was bouncing on his feet beside Yuuri on the platform, gripping his suitcase with one hand as he made gesticulations with the other, babbling a mile a minute as Yuuri tried to keep up.

It helped to distract him from the looming knowledge that later that same day he would be making his first appearance to the public as a figure skater, that he would have to skate for the thousands of eyes watching in the stadium, not to mention those who would be streaming it from the comfort of their own home – including Niki.

A shiver convulsed through his body and he shuddered at the thought of messing up in front of so many people, of what they would say, of the pity he would receive. Shaking his head, he tried to push the doubts away, knowing they weren’t going to help him, and instead allowed Phichit’s words to wash over him; he immersed himself in the easy topics and hoped that some of his friend’s excited energy would be absorbed, would permeate his mind and replace those which only held criticisms and second guesses.

By the time the tannoy had announced the arrival of their train and the three of them had clambered onto it, Yuuri felt significantly calmer, finding and slipping into his seat after storing his suitcase in one of the overhead lockers.

Not wasting any time, Phichit had already pulled out his headphones and began untangling them, his tongue sticking out in concentration as he hummed a familiar tune under his breath. Yosano was sat opposite the two of them, an empty seat beside him at their small table, which he placed his bag on top of, beginning to root through it before pulling out a book and his glasses.

With his two travel companions occupied, Yuuri shrugged and retrieved his own phone from his coat, opening it to see a new message from Niki – although at this point he was no longer surprised; nevertheless, being used to the early morning messages didn’t mean he was getting better at hiding his smile, and he felt his cheeks flush slightly as he bit back a grin.

According to Yuuri’s calculations, it was just after one am in Russia, and although there was a chance Niki would be awake, he decided to only send a small message of thanks; he had no doubt that if he sent one that could initiate a conversation, Niki would throw away all intentions of sleeping and talk to Yuuri until he either stopped replying in the hope that it would make him turn his phone off, or pass out from exhaustion.

Having a tired Niki on his hands was not something Yuuri particularly wanted, he already felt slightly guilty at the fact that he would be waking up at such an early hour to watch the stream, and keeping him awake was not going to help.

With the message sent, he opened his regular messages to reply to the few good luck texts he’d received; reading through them offered an extra boost of confidence and feeling of support, and he refused to let it be converted into more pressure and expectations.

 

As he plugged his earbuds into his phone, Yuuri scrolled through his songs, hitting the shuffle button after finding himself unable to choose one in particular; the first that played was calm and soothing, and he rested his head against the window as he let the tune of it wash over him.

The greens and yellows of the countryside whipped past him as the train ploughed onwards, the changing of tracks occasionally juddering the carriage gently and Yuuri swayed in his seat slightly. As they increased the distance between themselves and the familiarity Hasetsu promised, Yuuri squeezed his eyes closed, reminding himself that everything was going to be fine, he was going to be fine.  

As he shifted in his seat in an attempt to get more comfortable, Phichit seemed to notice his discomfort and wordlessly slipped his hand into Yuuri’s, offering a reassuring squeeze and he found himself sighing contentedly at the gesture he didn’t know he needed.

Whatever happened, whatever the outcome, he knew he wasn’t alone.

 


 

With Yosano having many years of coaching experience under his belt, finding and checking into their hotel was not a difficult feat, Yuuri and Phichit being led through and out of the station, slipping through side streets that he seemed to know like the back of his hand.

Although the queue at the desk was not long, Yuuri noticed that there were many other skaters in the lobby with them, each of which had a gym back slung over their shoulder and nervous expressions on their faces. The knowledge that he wasn’t the only one feeling some pressure helped to soothe his worries by a fraction.

Yosano handed each of them a key card to their room once he had returned from the desk, instructing them to go and drop their bags off and meet back in the lobby in ten minutes time; Yuuri and Phichit didn’t need to be told twice, hastily heading towards the lift and hitting the button for the fourth floor.

The corridor was mostly silent, which was as much as Yuuri expected, the sounds of their suitcase wheels sounding far too loud as they searched for their room, eventually finding it only a few doors down.

Yuuri moved out of the way as Phichit swiped his card against the lock, a small beep ringing out as the light flashed green and he pushed it open and the two of them stepped inside.

The room wasn’t anything particularly special; two single beds with a side table each; a small ensuite bathroom; a desk, chair and small bin. Despite this, Yuuri still found himself smiling as he lowered himself to sit on the edge of his bed, letting it sink in that he had made it this far and he would put everything he possibly could into the competition, wanting to make it to the Grand Prix more than he’d wanted anything before.

With his suitcase neatly tucked into the corner of the room, Yuuri double checked he had everything he needed in his gym bag before shrugging it over his shoulder, waiting for Phichit to finish grabbing any last-minute things from his own bags.

“Got everything?” Yuuri asked a few moments later, rocking back and forth on his feet as he watched Phichit pat his coat pockets before nodding.

When they met Yosano in the lobby, he was standing patiently with his hands interlinked behind him, a small smile playing on his lips as he greeted them once again before gesturing to the exit with a jerk of his head.

The stadium wasn’t too far away, a fifteen-minute walk at most, and Yuuri used that time to reassure himself that it would be okay, taking deep breaths in an attempt to slow his heart rate every time he felt it threatening to increase.

Phichit launched himself into another recount of a story as they walked, helping to distract Yuuri from his nerves as they found themselves getting closer with each step. When the large building came into sight, however, he abruptly switched topics and allowed his excitement to flow out of him, wrapping his slim fingers around Yuuri’s arm and shaking him with a grin.  

As they approached the entrance and the high walls loomed over them, Yuuri swallowed the lump in his throat, and shook his head in the hopes that it would dispel the intimidation it brought with it.

They joined the back of the queue in the foyer, a sea of chatter surrounding them from athletes and their coaches as they each waited to be checked in. Yuuri turned to face Phichit, watching as his head was tilted upwards and his lips parted, slowly running his eyes over the expanse of space around them.

When it was their turn, they supplied their names and were each handed a lanyard, Yuuri ran his fingers over it with a smile, staring at his name and photo which were printed before him. Although Phichit had only been given a blank guest one, he seemed to share the same sentiment and nudged Yuuri with his elbow before they put them on, feeling more official by the second.

Checking his watch, Yosano announced that they had a little over an hour before the warm ups began and Yuuri supressed a shudder, nodding with a determined look instead.

An unfamiliar man approached Yuuri’s coach then, laying a hand on his shoulder to grab his attention, Yosano’s eyes widening in recognition before they embraced in a hug. They spoke excitedly between each other, Yuuri and Phichit sharing a look as they watched, not entirely sure what they were supposed to do in a situation like this, should they introduce themselves?

Luckily, they didn’t need to, as Yosano turned to face them with a fond smile, directing the other man’s attention to Yuuri, “This is my student, Katsuki Yuuri, and his friend Phichit Chulanont.”

Yuuri was quick to shake the hand that was held out to him, offering a polite smile as they were introduced to each other.

“It’s lovely to meet you Yuuri, I’m Tanaka; your coach and I go way back.” He chuckled, giving Yosano a reminiscent look over his shoulder.

“It’s nice to meet you too.” Yuuri nodded, taking a step back as Phichit was given the same greeting before they all turned to face Yosano.

“Yuuri, Phichit, there’s a small café over there,” He gestured to the corner of the foyer with an open palm, nodding in the same direction as they turned their heads to look, “why don’t you two go and grab some lunch and meet me back here in forty minutes or so?”

“Okay, that sounds good.” Yuuri agreed, waving at the two older men before leading the way, checking the time on his phone as they made their way over.

Yuuri ordered something light when they got there, not wanting to upset his stomach and make the uncomfortable churning any worse than it already was. They found a small table together in the corner and ate in a comfortable silence, Phichit eagerly digging into his food, while Yuuri took small and calculated bites every so often.

Yuuri couldn’t stop himself from glancing up at the clock repeatedly, each time the minute hand moving forward sending a fresh wave of nerves over him. His leg began to reflexively bounce under the small table and Phichit placed a hand over his knee when he noticed, rubbing small and soothing circles over it with his thumb.

“You’re going to be great.” Was all he said, and the way it sounded like a fact, something that was not negotiable gave Yuuri some sense of belief in his words, even if he knew they weren’t necessarily true.

Rather than focusing on himself, Yuuri allowed his eyes to wander, absorbing everything around him; he watched people come and go, eat and leave, greet and say goodbye. There was so much surrounding him, and for a while it helped to distract him, to remind him of how many people were in the same boat as him and would be feeling a similar way.

When he finally brought his attention back to the clock on the wall, his eyes widened at the realisation that they were supposed to be meeting his coach again in two minutes; the time seemed to have slipped between his fingers, and he was getting far too close to needing to perform than he wanted to, but that also meant that it would be over soon.

After clearing their table, they returned to the foyer and Yosano seemed to be in a more chipper mood after his spontaneous catch up with Tanaka, leading them to the changing rooms with a small spring in his step.

While he waited outside, Yuuri and Phichit entered the room, finding an empty spot on the array of long wooden benches; Phichit sitting beside Yuuri as he hung up his bag on one of the hooks, beginning to root through it to pull out his costume and skates.

Growing up in an onsen, Yuuri was used to having his skin on display for others to see, and so he was quick to pull of his sneakers, undress and slip into his costume in front of the other athletes, all of which were doing the same. Phichit rose from his spot to pull the zip up on the back, flattening out any kinks in the material and ensuring it looked how it should.

Pulling out a pot of gel Yuuri didn’t even know his friend had brought, Phichit coated his fingers with a small amount and began to push Yuur’s hair back, running his fingers through it repeatedly to help it stay in place. Although he was slightly confused, he didn’t protest, only offering a small shrug and knowing it would be helpful to keep his hair out of his eyes, even if it’s main purpose was only to give him a slightly different look than usual.

Once he was satisfied, Phichit gave a nod and Yuuri placed himself on the bench, leaning over to pull on his skates, tying the laces tightly and giving them a few sharp tugs to check their strength.

Shivering slightly from the chill around them, he retrieved his sports jacket from his bag and hastily put it on, pulling it snugly around himself for warmth; it was only a plain black jacket, one he’d bought years ago from a small shop in Hasetsu - but if he was lucky, at the next competition he’d be wearing one with his country’s name on it.  

Slipping his phone into one of the pockets, he gave Phichit a nod to let him know he was ready ad they headed to the exit; upon leaving, they were quickly taken to another small and empty room by Yosano, given the instructions to stretch and make sure he was ready for the warm up in twenty minutes.

Without hesitation, Yuuri began to do star jumps and jogged on the spot for a few moments, moving swiftly into movements that would stretch his muscles; he sighed softly and breathed deeply as he felt the pull in his thighs and calves, the familiarity of it offering some degree of calmness.

Phichit went through each stretch with him, encouraging him to hold it for a few seconds longer than was comfortable, bend a little more than he thought he could; by the time he was done, everything felt looser and lighter, felt ready – for the warm up at least.

Apparently it was a good thing he felt that way, because less than ten seconds later the tannoy announced that it was time to do just that and Phichit was linking their hands together, pulling him out of the room and towards the ice where the other athletes were waiting.

With practised ease, each of them rested a hand on the barrier and bent down to remove their skate guards; Yuuri, however, replaced the use of the barrier in favour of Phichit’s shoulder, needing as much support from his best friend as he could get.

“Okay, you know this routine inside and out, Yuuri, you could probably do it with your eyes closed if you needed to. So, don’t worry and just use this time to skate a few laps, you can go through some of the components if you feel as though you really need to, but I only want to see you doing singles if you’re going to be doing any jumps. Am I making myself clear?” With his hands resting on each of Yuuri’s shoulders, and his eyes never breaking their contact with his own, Yuuri found himself nodding in agreement.

A small part of him was nagging that he should do more, should prove to himself that he did know the routine, but a larger, more rational part knew that messing up now would only make him more nervous and he should stick to his coach’s advice.

The announcer’s voice echoed through the stadium, telling them it was time to get on the ice and he received a pat on the back from Phichit before he left them and began the warm up period.

Yuuri had to admit that the feeling of his blades so easily cutting through the ice calmed him significantly, it felt as natural as walking at this point as he weaved in and out of the other skaters, trying to complete laps without getting in their way.

The unmistakeable sound of skates slipping badly on the ice grabbed his attention, and he whipped his head around to see one of his competitors sitting on the ice after a blundered jump; he was fine, if the way he got straight back onto his feet was anything to go by, but the disappointment and worry on his face was evident as he shook his head and tried to ignore the murmurs from the crowd.

The pressure must be getting to him too, Yuuri thought sadly, worrying his lip as he tried to focus on his own movements; if he had messed up a jump, what was to say that Yuuri wouldn’t too? For all he knew, the other skater may be the best one here and had just made a little mistake; the doubts began to crack the fake confidence Yuuri was grasping onto, and he knew that he had to try it, had to prove he could still do it.

His coach had said that singles were fine, and they should be enough to reassure Yuuri he still had the ability under his belt for his performance later; with his mind made, he clenched his jaw and began to pick up speed, waiting for an empty space on the ice before digging his blade into it and launching himself into the air. He landed it cleanly, almost perfectly if would go as far as to say that, and the relief that washed over him was instant, causing a smile to tug at his lips.

With the confirmation that he could probably complete his routine without any huge mistakes, Yuuri allowed himself to take it easy for the remainder of the time, using it to ensure that his body would be well and truly prepared when the time came.

Before he knew it, the timer had reached zero and they were all instructed to exit the ice, Yuuri hastily making his way over to Phichit and Yosano, who were looking just as optimistic as he felt. A water bottle was placed in his hand as they took their seats to wait for Yuuri’s turn, and he eagerly took large gulps, relishing in the feeling the cool liquid brought.

His phone buzzed in his pocket and he was quick to pull it out, the crease between his eyebrows smoothing out as he saw who it was from, replacing the confusion with delight as he opened the conversation.

 

 

Yuuri locked his phone and tucked it back into his pocket alongside his glasses as he rose from his seat, unzipping and handing his jacket over to Phichit as the three of them returned to the barrier.

“I’ve already said this, but you and I both know it’s true; you can do this Yuuri. You’re more than prepared to skate this routine, I want you to go out there and give it your all, do it just like you do in practise.” Yosano began his pep talk, and Yuuri nodded along, soaking in every word of encouragement he was being offered, “If it helps, imagine there’s no one else here, all that exists in this moment is you, your music, and your routine. Okay?”

“Or skate like Viktor is watching.” Phichit piped up, a teasing smile on his face and Yuuri glared at him, not wanting anyone to notice the blush that was sure to appear on his cheeks.

“In what world would he be watching the Japanese qualifying competition?” Yuuri scoffed, shaking his head with a bemused laugh before accepting the brief hug he was offered by his best friend, squeezing him gently in their embrace.

It was at that point that his name rang out through the stadium and he pulled away, taking a deep breath as he stepped onto the ice and skated into the centre; the stadium fell into silence and all Yuuri could hear was the sound of his inhalations as he waited for the music to play.

As the first notes of the piano piece echoed through the room, he began to move, trying to keep his movements fluid and natural; without his glasses, the crowd was no more than a blur of colour, and so Yuuri used this to his advantage, imagining that he was on his home rink at Hasetsu, that this was just a regular practise session with his coach without so much pressure.

But then he was reminded of the conversation he’d had just before getting on the ice, how he was given confirmation that Niki was watching; the thought that his friend had found a stream and was watching in a language he didn’t understand, all the way from Russia made Yuuri aware that thousands of miles away someone who didn’t even really know him was hoping for him to succeed.

With each turn and spin, Yuuri was very aware of this fact, and knew that everything he was doing was being seen by his new friend; of course a lot of Japan was also watching, not to mention his friends and family - but at that moment, he felt the need to show Niki he could do everything he believed he could, that Niki hadn’t just been giving him empty compliments this entire time.

Viktor Nikiforov may not have been watching, and he may not even know that Yuuri exists, but if he pulled off this performance, and if he was really lucky, he had a chance of seeing him at the Grand Prix and when he combined that with every other reason to push himself, he knew he could do it.

He launched himself into his jumps and landed each of them perfectly, never once faltering or slipping; his step sequence was immaculate and he could feel the way his body was in time with the music, the way it gave the impression he was making it, rather than just following it.

His breaths were becoming ragged as he reached the final part of his program, the exhaustion finally catching up to him, but he made sure to keep it at bay; there was no way he was going to slack off, not when he was so close to the end and still had so much more he could prove.   

As he executed his last components and heard the cheers from some of the crowd at his completion of each required move, he moved back into the centre of the ice as the song came to its final notes, fading out as he spun into his ending position.

His chest was rising and falling rapidly, dragging air into his lungs and he could feel the sweat on his eyebrow as cheers erupted around him; a grin broke out across his face as he hastily skated to the exit, instantly being pulled into a hug by Phichit as he babbled excitedly about his performance.

They soon made their way to the kiss and cry, Yuuri feeling hopeful due to his lack of mistakes, and the presence of Phichit’s shoulder pressing against his as they sat beside each other helped him as they patiently waited for his score to be calculated.

Yuuri squinted at the score that was on the screen in front of him, regretting not putting his glasses back on when he found that it was nothing but a black blur, but the way Phichit leapt to his feet and cheered gave him the impression that it was a high one.

“Yuuri!” Phichit beamed, pulling him to his feet and spinning him round with a giggle, “You’re in first!”

Oh.

Yuuri had been hoping that he would have maybe scraped fourth if he was lucky, knowing that he was going against skaters who’d been practising with coaches since they could walk – but first?

“Ummm…” His mouth was hanging open, unsure of what to say; for all he knew, Phichit could just be messing with him, but when his friend pulled his glasses from the jacket strewn over his arm and slid them onto his face, he could see it himself. Right at the top of the scoreboard was his name.

Yuuri was not the last skater of the day, there were still two more skaters left to take to the ice which meant he could easily be knocked from that spot, but he allowed himself to enjoy the feeling of being at the top. His mind supplied him with the knowledge that even if they scored higher than him, he would still be a respectable third and give him an advantage for the free program the following day.

When they were ushered out of the kiss and cry, Yuuri couldn’t seem to manage to wipe the smile off his face, and apparently neither could Phichit. As they returned to their seats to watch the remaining athletes, Yuuri’s phone buzzed once again and his cheeks began to ache when his grin only grew at the message.

 

 

“Was that Niki?” Phichit asked knowingly once Yuuri had put his phone away, he tried to ignore the smirk on his friend’s lips as he nodded in confirmation.

“Yeah, he was just congratulating me.” Yuuri shrugged, although the compliments he’d received had him blushing and he had to bite back another grin.

“Was that all?” Phichit teased, apparently noticing the slight rosiness of Yuuri’s cheeks and he rolled his eyes, playfully shoving him in lieu of an answer, not in the mood for an interrogation of what had been said.

Thankfully, Yuuri’s coach unintentionally saved him when he inserted himself into the conversation, suggesting that they all went to dinner after the long day and was met by a very eager Yuuri and Phichit, both of them nodding and agreeing.

After visiting the area on a number of occasions for competitions, Yosano seemed to know the exact place to go, and after they had returned to their hotel to give Yuuri time to shower and change, the three of them were on their way, Phichit voicing his hunger the entire time they walked.

Fortunately, it didn’t take them long to be served, and when their food arrived, Phichit began shovelling it into his mouth quickly, while Yuuri watched him with an amused chuckle. Yosano took the opportunity to congratulate Yuuri on securing his spot at first place in the short program once again, feeding him compliments and reassurances that if he could skate his free program in a similar way, he could take first place overall too.

Honestly, Yuuri felt a little out of his depth, he had never even entered a competition before, and yet now he was sitting at the top of the leader board at his first one; it felt surreal, and although the pressure of being first hadn’t really sunk in yet, Yuuri felt as though it would hit him tomorrow, and he bit his lip worriedly, hoping it wouldn’t affect his performance.

Before, the idea of actually qualifying for the Grand Prix had been an abstract thought, something Yuuri would daydream about during his lessons when he should have been paying attention to the teacher, or when Yuuko would praise him after a particularly impressive step sequence at the Ice Castle. But now that it was actually a possibility, was something almost in his grasp, he found it hard to believe.

If he did manage to qualify, he could be skating on the same ice as his lifelong idol within a few months; that thought alone sent a shiver down his spine, of course over the years he’d allowed himself to fantasise what it would be like to meet Viktor, to speak to him and have him know that he exists, but now that he was so close, missing that opportunity would hurt him more than he cared to admit.

Too consumed by his own thoughts, he had missed whatever Yosano had been saying for the last ten minutes, and looked up to be met by an expectant expression, he blinked a few times, clearing his throat awkwardly.

“Sorry,” he winced apologetically, rubbing the back of his neck with a sheepish laugh, “I was in a world of my own.”

“Don’t worry about it.” He waved a hand dismissively, offering a small smile of understanding before finishing his meal, reminding Yuuri he still had to do the same.

With their appetites satisfied several minutes later, they paid their bill and exited the restaurant, taking a slower stroll back to the hotel to give the food time to settle and get some fresh air before turning in for the night.

Yuuri had to admit the cool breeze of the evening felt nice as it hugged his face, and although he had to pull his jacket a little tighter around himself to keep warm, the chill was refreshing after the stuffiness of a too-crowded restaurant.

Yosano reminisced as they walked through the streets, pointing something out every so often with a fond glimmer in his eye, recounting stories from his past which Yuuri and Phichit listened to with keen interest, laughing along at some of the stories the coach had to share.

When thinking back, Yuuri realised it was silly for him to have ever been intimidated by his coach, especially before even meeting the man, because the person who walked beside them - his eyes crinkled with laughter as he shared his past - was nothing but kind and gentle, wanting nothing but the best for his student.

When they eventually reached the hotel, Yuuri felt calm and content after their walk, he parted ways with his coach in the lift, Yosano staying on the floor above them due to the late booking of their hotel rooms. They bid him adieu cheerfully, arranging to meet him back in the lobby to the following morning to get breakfast together.

As the two of them entered their room, Yuuri kicked his shoes off and made a beeline for his bed, falling face first onto it with a long sigh of exhaustion, feeling the effects of a long day catching up to him.

Phichit did the same, except he already had his phone out and was typing away as he laid there, humming to himself in the quiet of the room. Finding it a bit creepy to watch his friend, but not knowing what to do with himself, Yuuri flipped himself over and resorted to studying the pattern on the ceiling, his eyes following the painted loops and swirls above him.

He wasn’t sure how long he had been doing it for, but he flinched when his phone began to vibrate once again and he dug his hands into his pockets, pulling it out to see a request to video call from Mari.

When he accepted it, however, he was met by his parents instead.

“Hello Yuuchan!” His mother greeted with a smile, the top of her head only visible due to the way she was holding the phone and he tried not to let his amusement show.

“Hi mama.” He grinned, waving with one hand as he used the other to push himself into a sitting position.

“Can you hear us? Mari, can Yuuri hear us?” Hiroko asked, looking offscreen to where he assumed Mari was, and by the way he could faintly hear laughing, his assumptions were correct.

“Yes, I can hear you don’t worry.” He assured her, before shaking his head when she turned the phone even more so she was completely gone, “Mama, you need to tilt the screen, I can’t see you.”

“Oh, sorry dear!” She giggled softly, the picture shifting until her smiling face came into view, Toshiya standing behind her and looking over her shoulder with a smile just as bright, “Is that better?”

“Yeah, it’s perfect.” He nodded.

“You did so well today, we’re so proud of you!” His father praised, jumping straight into it, and Yuuri blushed once more; hearing his parents express their pride at his skating was something he’d wanted for years, and now that he had proved to them that he was serious about it, he knew they would only continue to support him even more.

“Thank you, I wanted to show you that you weren’t wasting your money on a coach for me I guess.” He laughed awkwardly, averting his eyes to stare at the wall rather than his parents.

His mother’s tutting was a sound Yuuri was never fond of hearing, and when it came from his small speaker, he winced slightly, preparing himself for what she was about to say, “Yuuchan, of course it’s not a waste of money, you could come last and it would still not be a waste of money. If skating makes you happy, then we’re happy to pay for it.”

When he met their gazes again, he saw the soft expressions both his parents wore, and found himself apologising out of habit, thanking them once again; a moment later, Mari’s head also made an appearance in the small window on his phone, the blonde streaks of her hair contrasting their mother’s.

“Hey, good job today.” She waved a finger at him through the screen, her strong eyes holding him in place as he thanked her too.

“Is that your family?” Phichit asked from his side of the room, tearing his attention from his own phone in favour of looking towards Yuuri’s; when he nodded in confirmation, Phichit scrambled from his bed and leaped onto Yuuri’s, wrapping his arms around him and leaning his head on his shoulder so he would fit in the frame.

“Hello mama and papa!” He greeted cheerily, and Yuuri suspected his bubbly energy could probably be felt all the way back in Hasetsu from the way his parent’s faces lit up upon seeing him.

They cooed at him and began asking him all about his day, making sure they were taking care of themselves and informing both of them how much they were missed – even though they had seen each other earlier that day.

Mari watched in the background with an amused smile, shaking her head as she watched their parents fuss over Yuuri’s friend, and when it seemed that they had finally exhausted their topics of conversation, she managed to claim her phone back, ending the call with a warm goodbye and a smile.

“I love our family.” Phichit sighed happily, leaning backwards to lay on Yuuri’s bed and make himself comfortable. Rolling his eyes, Yuuri only scoffed and supressed a laugh, pushing Phichit’s long legs out of his way so he could lay down too.

They laid side by side for a while, Phichit talking nonsense and Yuuri listening intently, snickering when he said something particularly odd or entertaining. He kept his words light and his topics pleasant, causing Yuuri to feel drowsy as he nodded along and made hums of acknowledgement or agreement every so often.

Eventually, his eyelids began to grow heavy and he let them close, promising himself he was just resting them, and would wake back up in ten minutes to get changed and ready for bed properly. He broke that promise, however, when he let Phichit’s words wash over him and the gentle tone in which he spoke gradually eased him to sleep.

 


 

When Yuuri awoke the next morning, the bed was warmer than he expected, and there was far less room than he was used to. As he came to grow more aware of his surroundings, blinking in the early morning light that flooded the room, he realised that this was because he was apparently now sharing a bed with a lanky human radiator.

Phichit must have fallen asleep too before going back to his own bed, Yuuri concluded, noticing that his phone was laying loosely in his grip, and like Yuuri, he had not changed into his pyjamas either. Used to his friend’s sleeping habits after many spontaneous sleepovers, it was no surprise that Phichit had latched himself onto Yuuri as he slept, their arms and legs tangled together to form a large human knot.

Pulling an arm free from under Phichit’s torso, Yuuri reached out to locate his own phone and winced as the bright screen temporarily blinded him, causing him to slowly blink and try and turn the brightness down. When he was finally able to look at it, he found that he’d woken up half an hour before their alarm was due to go off; tucking it under his pillow, he leaned closer into Phichit’s warmth in the chill of the room and allowed himself to fall back to sleep.

It was safe to say that waking Yuuri up when Phichit was in the same bed as him, was much easier than it had been the previous day when he’d had a cocoon of covers to protect him. Unfortunately, Yuuri had more exposed areas for Phichit to poke incessantly, and after trying to protest for a grand total of forty-eight seconds, he’d given up and accepted his defeat with a whine, swatting Phichit’s hands away. His hair was dishevelled as he sat up and silenced his alarm, his clothes creased beyond compare, earning him a chuckle from Phichit – although he was in a similar state himself.

Announcing that he was claiming the shower first, Yuuri tiredly clambered out of bed and padded to the bathroom, grabbing fresh clothes and a towel before emerging five minutes later feeling a fraction more awake. Yuuri would never understand Phichit’s love of mornings, he thought, watching as he practically skipped over to the small bathroom, as chipper as ever despite the early hour.

While he waited for him to return, Yuuri entertained himself by scrolling through his phone, listening to Phichit’s off-key singing in the background as he showered; pulling down his notification bar, he noticed he’d missed a few and his eyes widened, his mouth hanging open as his brain registered the words before him. 

 

 When Phichit came out of the bathroom, Yuuri jumped on him, placing his hands on his shoulders and shaking him with wild eyes, unable to utter more than his name.

“What’s wrong?” He asked concernedly, his eyebrows pulling together as he placed his hands on Yuuri too; biting his lip, Yuuri just shook his head and showed him his phone screen, watching as Phichit’s eyes blew wide and he gasped excitedly, “Oh my god! Viktor saw you skate, Yuuri! He knows who you are!”

“I know!” He exclaimed, and he couldn’t tell whether he was delighted by that fact or distraught, because that also meant he would be watching today, and if he messed up now it would be even worse, because Viktor would see, “I have to tell Niki, because oh my God, I’m dying here.”

Yuuri’s previous rule to not keep Niki awake was thrown out of the window as he opened the app, dropping onto the floor because the bed was too far away and his heart was beating rapidly from exhilaration.

 

 

Although Yuuri was still marginally freaking out, speaking to Niki had helped slightly, allowing him to put this into perspective and remember that although it was Viktor Nikiforov they were talking about, it was also just Viktor, a seventeen year old Russian boy who liked to ice skate and laced his shoes up one at a time, just like everybody else – even if he was a figure skating prodigy.

Phichit nudged him in the side and the two of them got up and pulled their shoes on, making their way to the lobby to meet Yosano and grab some breakfast before they began the long day ahead of them.

 


 

Although Yosano insisted that being in first was the best advantage Yuuri could possibly have, Yuuri found that it wasn’t necessarily true; being in first place meant that he had set the bar high for himself, and if he fell below it, people would consider his skate yesterday as being a fluke and view him as an inconsistent skater. He had already made his parents proud for being up there at the top of the scoreboard, and if he fell from it now, it would hurt more than falling from third to fourth, or even fourth to fifth.

Not only that, but it also meant that he would be assigned to skate last, meaning his anxiety had more time to whisper doubts into his head and convince himself getting first place must have been some sort of mistake, because there was no way he deserved it.

That was the reason why Yuuri found himself finding it hard to breathe as he sat in his seat, his head buried between his legs as he attempted to drag air into his lungs. It was mostly under control for now, no one had noticed except for his coach and Phichit, who were calmly speaking to him and offering kind words of reassurances, and Yuuri was almost beginning to believe them.

But then the cameras saw him.

One skater had just come off the ice, and while he was hugging his coach, the large video camera had begun to zoom in on Yuuri, and he looked up to see his panicked expression being broadcasted on the large televisions around the stadium.

He guessed that whoever thought it was a good idea couldn’t see him from where they were standing, or had thought he was just offering a nervous expression they could use to grab people’s attention in favour of making the competition more interesting to watch, because it cut off as Yuuri stood abruptly from his seat. The tears he had been holding back were finally escaping and staining his cheeks as he tried to get away from the curious eyes, not wanting anyone to see him while he was feeling weak.

Phichit was quick to follow him, slipping his hand into Yuuri’s and leading him to the room whey had been stretching in the previous day; as expected, it was just as empty as before and as he closed the door behind them, Yuuri already felt a sense of relief as he was able to throw away all pretences and let the tears flow, gasping for air as he collapsed to the floor and pulled his knees to his chest.

There were still a few skaters left to take the ice before him, leaving him with enough time to get his panic attack under control if he was lucky. His body convulsed with each sharp inhalation he took, and he cringed at the feeling, desperately wanting it to stop, but also knowing he was the one who had to make it stop.

Phichit’s soothing voice managed to reach him, the question of whether it was okay to touch him echoing through his mind, and Yuuri could only nod weakly, not wanting to lift his head from the safe space he’d made between his legs. Gentle fingers began to rub circles on his back, and he squeezed his eyes closed, focusing on the feeling of that rather than the pain in his chest.

As Phichit continued to speak to him all the while, he was finally able to recognise his words were numbers, more accurately a count-down; as Yuuri finally lifted his head to meet his gaze, his vision was blurred from the tears and Phichit wiped them away with the sleeve of his jacket. He asked Yuuri to try and match his breathing, delicately pulling a hand from where it was tightly wrapped around himself, and instead moving it to be pressed against Phichit’s chest so he could feel each rise and fall.

Keeping their gazes connected, Yuuri watched Phichit’s face as he breathed, and after many minutes had passed, his own breathing had finally started to slow down; at that moment, his phone chimed from his pocket several times, and when Phichit asked if he wanted to check it, Yuuri shook his head quickly.

Hesitantly, Phichit asked Yuuri if he wanted him to check it for him, just to see who it was, and after a moment of hesitation, Yuuri nodded slowly, focusing on bringing his heart rate down while his friend pulled his phone from his jacket pocket and the screen lit up.

“It was Niki.” Phichit informed him a few moments later, when Yuuri had finally managed to start breathing normally again and was no longer shaking, his tears all dried up with only their tracks left behind. Holding it out towards him, Phichit nodded towards the phone with a half-smile, “He just wanted to check if you were okay.”

With his fingers only trembling slightly, Yuuri accepted the device and read over the messages, typing a reply to assure him he would be fine.

 

 

Pushing himself to his feet, Yuuri braced himself against the wall as he sighed deeply, wiping away the tear stains from his cheeks and fanning his face to try and hide the flush of his cheeks that he knew would be painfully obvious to anyone who looked.

He was unsure of how much time had passed, but when Phichit informed him there were still two more skaters before him, Yuuri let himself relax slightly at the realisation that he still had time to try and hide the evidence of his panic attack. Leaving the room, they found a nearby bathroom and Yuuri began splashing cold water on his face, wetting a paper towel and dabbing it under his eyes to try and soothe some of the redness.

“I think they’re ready for you.” Phichit smiled, glancing at his watch and the announcer called Yuuri’s name as they made their way back to the rinkside, any traces of his panicking were left in the bathroom and he offered a shaky smile to his coach who was looking at him worriedly.

They didn’t have much time before he had to take to the ice, only a minute or two, and so his coach began to speak quickly but determinedly, filling his mind with praise and positive thoughts once again; but Yuuri didn’t take much of it in, he was hyper focused on the fact that Viktor would be watching, that if Niki had seen him run away panicking, then it meant Viktor had too.

He didn’t want to be thought of as weak, didn’t want to be known as the boy who cried before his free skate and then flunked his program; if everyone had already seen him cry, then he wanted them to know he was strong enough to come back from it, that he could use it as a springboard to show just how much he was capable of. He’d been hoping for an opportunity to show his idol what he could do on the ice, hoping he could be seen as someone worthy to share the same ice as him, and now that the opportunity was in the palm of his hands, he was not going to miss it.

With his jaw set, and his eyes narrowed, Yuuri took a deep breath as he nodded at his coach, stepping out and taking his position in the centre of the rink. His free skate was more personal than his short program, it was something he had pieced together with the help of his coach, influenced by his dreams to prove himself and make his friends and family proud as he was introduced to the skating world.

He kept these thoughts in his mind as he moved through each part, a fond and gentle smile on his lips as he thought about his parents as he started; he spun on the ice, extending his arm and pulling it back towards himself as he did so, building speed while also reflecting the embrace of a friend. Yuuri lowered himself close to the ice as he glided, a bent knee skimming the surface as he leaned back before pulling himself forwards and back to standing, hoping to convey the way he’d been helped by so many times by his loved ones – how Phichit had pulled him out from his mind not even ten minutes ago.

There were so many positive influences in Yuuri’s life, and he was reminded of each and every one of them as he pushed himself through his program, executing all of his jumps with ease and feeling the grin on his face as the crowd cheered.

His muscles were beginning to ache from planning his jumps into the second half, but as he pictured Viktor sitting on his sofa and watching Yuuri skate, a newfound wave of determination flooded him and he used all of his remaining energy to complete the program. As his skates dug into the ice and Yuuri began his jump, he knew he was not going to land it, and his body collided with the ice, his hands and knees scraping against the cold surface.

He refused to let it ruin his performance however, and was back on his feet within seconds, managing to complete his last moves cleanly and have his fumble be marked off as a single miscalculated jump, something that happened to most skaters at some point – especially their first competition.

Eventually, Yuuri found himself in his finishing pose and the music had ended, silence encasing the stadium for a few moments; but just like the day before, cheers quickly exploded from the crowd and a laugh escaped Yuuri’s lips when he felt the pressure lift from his shoulders; he had completed both of his programs with only one fall, he just hoped it was enough.

Phichit and Yosano seemed to think so, as he was congratulated after stepping off the ice and was ushered to the kiss and cry once again; remembering his issue yesterday, Yuuri was sure to wear his glasses this time to see where he ended up. Although initially he hadn’t liked the idea of it, being the last skater at least meant that he would know where he was placed for definite, and that it would not change after his score was announced.

Yuuri’s name was called out and he turned his attention to the screen, watching as his name disappeared from the bottom and returned to the top of the score board. He was instantly embraced in another hug by Phichit as they both yelled excitedly, Yuuri still confused as to how he scored so highly when he fell out of a jump, but not wanting to think about it at that moment.

Yosano placed a hand on his shoulder once he pulled away from Phichit, offering a proud smile and a congratulations, which Yuuri thanked him for profusely, expressing his gratitude for the coaching that had helped him so much over the past two months.

At the medalling ceremony, Yuuri stood proudly on the podium, grinning across the ice to where Phichit was cheering loudly as the gold medal was placed around his neck. His jaw ached from smiling so much, and at that moment Yuuri knew he wanted to keep winning, wanted to keep proving how much he could do, and at the confirmation that he had qualified for the Grand Prix series, he almost cried at the realisation that he was one step closer to Viktor.

 


 

When they finally made it back to their hotel room later that evening, Yuuri checked his phone to be met with many congratulatory texts from his friends and family back in Hasetsu, yet the first one he opened was from his Russian friend instead.

 

 

Not for the first time, Yuuri was touched by how much Niki cared - and although it wasn’t particularly surprising - he found that he was relieved at his reaction to confessing he struggled with anxiety. A small part of him had been worried that it would change the way Niki saw him, and that he would no longer want to be friends due to it, but of course that was a ridiculous thought and he felt embarrassed for even entertaining the possibility.

Not only had Niki been supportive, but he had also wanted to learn more about it, had wanted to discuss it with Yuuri to better understand it and be able to help, and if that didn’t remind him of just how lucky he was to have him in his life, and how grateful he was, Yuuri didn’t know what else would.

With his heart feeling light after a burden he wasn’t even aware he was carrying had been lifted, Yuuri drifted to sleep with his lips still upturned in a smile, and his phone held closely to his chest.

 


 

Upon returning home the next morning, Yuuri was instantly surrounded by a tower of hugs, a barrage of praise hitting him from each family member, his mother blubbering and refusing to let go of him even after the others had, earning a chuckle as Yuuri squeezed her tighter.

When he was finally released, Yuuri knelt beside his suitcase and began to search through it, rising to his feet a moment later with the medal in hand and a knowing smile on his lips as he offered it to his father. He watched as Toshiya slowly reached out for it, his eyes glimmering with joy as it was placed in his hands and he carefully placed it on the empty shelf he’d teasingly referred to only days ago.

“I have a feeling this collection is going to grow.” He said thoughtfully, turning to Yuuri after making sure it was displayed properly.

“That’s the plan.” Yuuri smiled.

 

Chapter Text

With his place confirmed for the Grand Prix Series, Yuuri worked harder than ever on the ice, pushing himself to his limit, and then just that little bit more. Yosano sat in the stands with a watchful eye, Yuuri feeling his gaze on him throughout each of his practice sessions; he claimed it was solely for support, but Yuuri knew that he also wasn’t entirely trusted to be responsible and not work himself into the ground.

Although it felt a little patronising, Yuuri found himself unable to be bristled by the gesture; instead, he felt only gratefulness that his coach knew him so well, that he could prevent his nerves from pushing him to the point of exhaustion – stop them from collapsing everything he’d worked so hard for in their wake.

When the assignments had been announced, Yuuri was laying tiredly on his bed after a particularly rigorous session at the rink; with his hand lazily held above his face, and his phone gripped loosely between his fingers. In his tired state, the ding of the notification startled him, causing the device to fall flat onto his nose; pushing his glasses askew as he winced in pain, he rubbed the small ache which had begun to throb.  

Narrowing his eyes in annoyance, Yuuri opened the notification and upon realising what it was, all at once his tiredness evaporated as he gripped his phone tightly, scanning the long list of names for his own.

 

 

Trophée Éric Bompard.

Cup of Russia.

It didn’t feel real.

No matter how many times Yuuri closed and reopened the page, his name still remained there no matter what; it was strange, seeing it among the likes of so many other talented skaters he’d seen on his television for so many years. Curious as to who would be at the same competitions as him, Yuuri went through the list of names, smiling when he saw those he recognised; a tiny surge of excitement rushed through him when he saw that Christophe Giacometti would also be competing in France with him.

Yuuri had watched his programs in past competitions, confused, but ultimately impressed by how at only eighteen he could enrapture the audience and have women – and men – swooning at his feet so consistently. His performances were strong and obviously well thought out, maximising his strengths and using each of them to his advantage, while leaving any of his weaker components to the minimum required of him - something Yuuri aimed to do as well.

His routines had never caught his eye as much as Viktor’s had, never left his jaw hanging open and his fist pressed to his chest to soothe his pounding heart, but he was still a fierce competitor, one Yuuri looked up to and hoped to be an equal to one day.

Not only Chris’ skating, but his friendship with Viktor was popularly known across the skating world, seeming to be Viktor’s go-to guy at any and every competition they shared; and with each new photo or interview that surfaced of them together, Yuuri felt a twinge of envy, knowing that he would give everything in exchange for the chance to make him laugh; to tell him about his day and know the other boy was actually interested about it.

He understood it was probably unrealistic to hope for, that Viktor already had Chris, and after all three’s a crowd; not to mention the fact that there would be many more skaters at the same competitions – ones that were miles ahead of Yuuri and he couldn’t even hold a candle up to. Nevertheless, he couldn’t seem to stop himself from indulging in the hope, it was a small flicker that burned in the back of his mind, a weak flame that he was unable to extinguish, not unless Viktor did it himself with a dismissal and a calculated fake smile.

With the thought of Viktor in his mind, Yuuri began to chew on his lip as he returned his attention to his phone once more, needing to know where he had been assigned to. The twist of his stomach indicated the ball of nerves which had begun to make themselves known, growing louder as his eyes trailed further down, down, down – until it exploded and spread through his bloodstream, a wave of excitement flooding him because Viktor would be at the Cup of Russia.

Yuuri would see him in person.

Yuuri would skate on the same ice as him.

Yuuri might even speak to him.

With shaking hands, he dropped his phone onto his lap and gripped his pillow to his chest, burying his face into the soft linen as an uncontrollable grin spread over his face; his heart was hammering against his chest as he let the realisation settle in, the abstract idea of meeting Viktor would be a reality in just under a month, and it took everything in him not to scream into the pillow – although he did allow a giggle to bubble from his throat as he laid back and stared up at his ceiling.

He needed to tell someone, Yuuri was sure his heart would burst if he kept his giddiness locked inside, and at that moment, the person he wanted the most was Niki.

 

 

 

 

Yuuri flopped backwards with a sigh, comfortably laying on his bed with his eyes trained on the ceiling above; opposite him, Viktor smiled down at him from the poster Phichit had secured with several layers of tape in the weeks before, declaring with certainty that Viktor should be the first person he sees on a morning – although Yuuri was sure that it was just another way for his best friend to torture him further about his not-so-secret celebrity crush.

Despite the relentlessness of Phichit’s comments and playful remarks, Yuuri had to admit that the poster collection he had accumulated from his friend was impressive; a large variety was secured to his walls, from cut outs of skating magazines, to newspaper articles, to professional photos with captions in a language he couldn’t understand.

They had all been gifted to him by Phichit – or at least the majority had -, and despite pretending to hate it when he turned up with a smirk on his lips and a poster in his hands, his collection was one of Yuuri’s fondest belongings. Not only was it proof of how much his best friend listened to him, supported his love for the sport, and a certain Russian athlete; it also helped Yuuri to stay focused and remember his goals, it had reminded him that if he worked hard he could skate on the same ice as Viktor someday – and now he was going to.

But first, he had to get through the competition in France.

 


 

Paris was a whirlwind of bright lights, beautiful streets, and a language that rolled off the tips of people tongues so elegantly, Yuuri found himself listening to the unfamiliar language with an unconscious smile on his lips. With Phichit by his side, dragging him from their hotel room and to the closest metro station as soon as their bags had hit the floor, Yuuri didn’t have time to complain about the jetlag threatening to encase him; instead, the two of them drank coffee and filled their stomachs with crêpes from street stalls, the chocolate syrup thick and sweet, and the perfect comfort food Yuuri searched for right before a competition.

Having never been outside of his home country before, Yuuri found himself in awe of the shift in culture, of how on this one small planet, people all lived so very different lives; Hasetsu was small, Yuuri knew that, but it had never occurred to him just how small it was until that moment. Suddenly everything felt too big, too different and Yuuri turned his attention to his shoes, watching the way the floor of the train carriage rattled below him as they sped through the dark tunnel.

Although Yuuri was slightly bouncing in his seat from the whispers of his anxious thoughts, Phichit was bouncing beside him from excitement; it radiated from him in his wide grey eyes that glistened even under the cheap fluorescent lighting; his blinding smile that only grew with each second that he took in the atmosphere; and Yuuri wished he could harbour some of his personality sometimes, wished he could feel the same way Phichit did about these things, rather than the heaviness of his stomach and the slight tightness of his chest.

When his best friend turned to face him, his eyebrows furrowing as their eyes met, Yuuri knew the question was coming before the words had even formed on Phichit’s lips.

“Are you okay?”

In lieu of answering, Yuuri offered a nod and a reassuring smile, knowing that it would pass hopefully as soon as it had come; Phichit’s gaze softened, his hand reaching out to intertwine with Yuuri’s, and he was thankful for the gesture, the small circles being rubbed into his skin helping to soothe his nerves.

Yuuri may have been in a foreign country that was largely different to Japan, but so was Phichit; not only had Phichit left Japan, but he had also left Thailand, had his life uprooted and moved to another country where he didn’t know anyone, and yet he had still managed to pour his cheerfulness into the hearts of others, carrying on with his life all the same – and if Phichit could do that, Yuuri could definitely spend a few days in Paris, could indulge his best friend in the opportunity to go sightseeing.

The tannoy announced the station as the train pulled to a gradual stop, and Yuuri allowed himself to be led by Phichit, shrugging his backpack over his shoulder and gripping his hand tightly as they navigated through the sea of people on the platform, each of them clearly accustomed to a life of switching between trains regularly, and without patience for two clueless tourists – or at least one, Phichit seemed to know exactly what he was doing, and Yuuri sighed in relief at the comfort it brought.

The towering escalators seemed intimidating in comparison to the plain staircase at Hasetsu’s train station, and so Yuuri climbed onto them with trepidation, holding onto the handrail with his free hand, as he tried to ignore the metallic clanging that came each time the stair shuddered on the way up. Phichit, however, seemed unfazed, his expression still warm as his eyes surveyed the array of posters on the walls, and Yuuri joined him; one in particular caught his eye, recognising the romanised lettering of it as a ballet show Minako had taken part in many years ago whilst travelling. A fond smile tugged at his lips at the thought, and he made a mental reminder to think her for letting him use her studio regardless of the time for all those years.

Emerging from the station, they quickly found themselves being swept into the crowds of people, the loud chatter weaving together and blending with the hum of traffic passing by, tossing a cacophony of sounds all around them.

With Phichit’s hand still a constant presence in Yuuri’s own, he allowed himself to relax as he was steered through unfamiliar streets, eventually spotting the tip of the Eiffel Tower peeking out from behind a particularly tall building. He’d seen numerous photos of the landmark, but as they grew closer, the large metal structure loomed impressively above them and Yuuri’s mouth was slightly agape as he took it in.

The outskirts of Champ de Mars was scattered with tourists and locals alike, cameras all pointed in the same direction – including Phichit’s, his hand finally breaking apart from Yuuri’s as he pulled his phone from his pocket, snapping photos from numerous angles before making a sound of satisfaction as he smiled down at his screen.

Retrieving his own from his jacket, Yuuri captured the moment on his device, wanting to send it to Niki later so he could share the view with him; it was silly, Yuuri thought, that he was standing there in a country he’d never been to, with his best friend by his side, and yet his thoughts still managed to wander to his Russian friend.

Shaking his head and brushing away the thought, Yuuri followed Phichit as they ventured even closer, joining him in taking a cliché selfie from below the landmark, the flare of the flash reflecting off his glasses and forcing them to retake it – although Phichit kept both anyway with an amused smile.

The hours that followed consisted of Yuuri walking by Phichit’s side, agreeing to go wherever was suggested – despite the protest from his aching feet – and with each attraction finally ticked off their list, the pair called it a day and began the journey back to their hotel.

Stopping at yet another food stall on their way, Yuuri purchased a meal that his coach would definitely not approve of, and eagerly dug into it after a long evening of exploring the city. Walking in companionable silence, Phichit swallowed a large mouthful of his own food before deciding to break it, turning to face Yuuri with softness in his eyes.

“How are you feeling?” He asked, wiping a spot of sauce from his lip as he waited for an answer.

“Right now? I’m good.” Yuuri shrugged nonchalantly, taking another bite as he fixed his eyes straight ahead at the tall buildings they were passing.

 “Good, that’s good.” Phichit smiled, before clearing his throat and nudging him gently in the side, “How about tomorrow, how are you feeling about the competition?”

Yuuri swallowed as he hummed thoughtfully, studying the way the streetlights reflected in shop windows, an array of ambers and golds painted against the glass, all shifting and bending with each step he took, “Yeah, I think I’m okay.”

“I’m glad,” Phichit beamed at him, gripping the handles of his backpack as he fiddled with the straps unconsciously, “you’ll be fine – no, fantastic. Just like last time.”

Yuuri appreciated the words, knew it was a way for Phichit to show just how much faith he had in his ability, and yet somehow, they still had a tinge of emptiness to them. Objectively, Yuuri knew he was good - that he wouldn’t be in Paris about to compete in the Grand Prix series if he wasn’t – but that was just it wasn’t it? It wasn’t just like last time; last time had been a few thousand people, maybe more depending on how many people across the nation had tuned in, but this time, he had an international audience watching him.

There were so many talented skaters he would see the next day, skaters he would meet, skaters that he’d been watching on his television for years; and although he was there, had the proof that he would be competing against them, it still didn’t feel real. In that moment, Yuuri was too in awe at the fact that he’d made it this far, that his brain hadn’t registered all of the facts yet.

He was anticipating the anxiety, knowing it was only a matter of time until it upreared its head unannounced, but for now he was content in his ignorance and slight denial, just focusing on the fact that the sky was getting dark, it was getting late, and he had a very comfortable bed waiting for him just a few short train rides away.

 


 

Upon arriving back to their hotel room, Yuuri couldn’t get his shoes off fast enough, and within a few minutes he was sitting at the top of his soft bed, wearing his old pyjamas that smelt like home while he tried to connect his phone to the fickle wifi. If he thought spending a few hours without internet connection was inconvenient at most, Phichit seemed to think it was the worst thing that had ever happened to anyone, ever.

In the quiet of the room, Yuuri listened to Phichit’s internal struggle, his gasps of hopefulness transitioning into sighs of disappointment as the connection dropped once again. It was amusing to listen to, and even more so to watch; seeing the way his eyes widened and narrowed repetitively, the way he clasped his hands in prayer and looked up to the ceiling, whispering under his breath.

Biting his lip to surpass a laugh from escaping, Yuuri averted his attention to his own phone, refreshing the screen repeatedly in the hopes that it would connect. Eventually, Phichit made an excited noise and at the same moment, the dinging of his notifications flooded the room and Yuuri was met by a couple of his own.

 

 

With a grin on his face, Yuuri double checked his alarm was set for the following day and placed his phone on the bedside table; although still there, he found that his nerves were slightly easier to manage, and he was able to slip into a peaceful sleep.

 


 

Having being exposed to Phichit’s methods of getting him out of bed at the previous competition, upon hearing him shift in his bed after silencing his alarm, Yuuri braced himself for the cold of the room; despite expecting it, he whined at the chill that wrapped around his body, groggily sitting up and brushing the loose hairs from his eyes.

“Morning, sunshine!” Phichit grinned, his own hair tousled in a similar way, although to Yuuri’s jealousy, his features were free of any sign of fatigue.

“How are you so cheery at,” Yuuri reached out for his glasses, slipping them on and squinting at his too-bright phone screen, “six am?”

“Because it’s a new day, the sun is shining, and I’m about to watch my best friend compete in an international competition.” He explained, drawing the curtains for emphasis, but being met with a dark and cloudy sky.

“You’re right,” Yuuri said dryly, frowning at the window, “the sun is really shining.”

“Well, technically,” Phichit smirked, raising an eyebrow at Yuuri who was yet to climb out of his coverless bed, “the sun is always shining, we just can’t see it yet.”

“Geeze there’s no ruining your good mood is there?” Yuuri smiled, amused at how he could be so optimistic all the time.

“Nope! You better get used to it because nothing will dampen it today.” He declared, and Yuuri understood that it was a way for his friend to try and keep him in a similar mood, a way to try and ensure he didn’t worry about the competition and he appreciated the gesture.

“Now, go and shower,” Phichit finally resorted to man handling and pulled Yuuri from his bed, one hand wrapped around his arm whilst the other ruffled his already-messy hair with a teasing grin, “because I love you, but you look like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards.”

“Gee, thanks.” Yuuri said sarcastically, rolling his eyes as a smile tugged at his lips despite himself.

“Anytime.”

A towel and some clean clothes were placed in his hands as Phichit ushered him into the bathroom, and within ten minutes he was out again, feeling and looking a lot fresher than before.

While Phichit took his turn in the shower, Yuuri took advantage of the new time zone between Niki and himself, now only separated by an hour rather than six; so he continued their conversation with an uncontrollable smile on his face.

 

 

“C’mon, Yosano is waiting for us downstairs,” Phichit nudged Yuuri when he had finally put his phone away, apparently noticing the small blush on his cheeks as he smirked, “but I’ll bet you wish it was Niki instead.”

“Shut up.” Yuuri playfully nudged him back, fighting off the smile that was yet to disappear and focusing his attention on tying his laces rather than his friend, who was watching him by the door with folded arms and a grin.

“Is he going to be watching?” Phichit asked curiously, and Yuuri still refused to look up at him, taking his sweet time to loop the laces over each other.

“Obviously.” He said offhandedly, not realising how it sounded until Phichit made a choked sound and he could practically feel the delight radiating off him.

Obviously?” He repeated, his eyes wide and glistening, “I didn’t realise you and your Russian lover were so close.”

“First of all, don’t call him that; he’s my friend and this isn’t some old English novel,” Yuuri finally met Phichit’s gaze, if only to try and drive the words home, “Secondly, I didn’t mean it like that, I meant that he’s my friend, so he watches all of my competitions; like if someone asked me if you were going to be watching, it’s pretty much a given that you would be.”

“Yeah, sure.” Phichit winked, his teasing smile not weakening in the slightest despite Yuuri’s explanation, and with a sigh, he shrugged and zipped his jacket up, throwing his bag over his shoulder and double checking he had everything he needed.

“Anyway, are you ready?” Yuuri asked in an attempt to dismiss the topic, looking his friend up and down to see that he was in fact ready, but it didn’t hurt to ask.

Obviously.” Phichit grinned, and Yuuri groaned as he shoved him playfully out of the way, not sparing a glance over his shoulder as he headed down to the lobby.

 


 

It was odd how similar yet different the stadium was to Yuuri’s previous competition; the chill of the ice and weight of his skate bag was the same, however this time he was surrounded by chatter in languages he couldn’t understand, all of them intertwining and permeating the air in a blanket of unfamiliarity.

With his coach and best friend beside him though, speaking in his mother tongue, Yuuri allowed himself to relax as they received their passes and waited for the event to begin. He would be skating in the first group, which was both a blessing and a curse; it meant that he could get it out of the way, and have less time for his anxiety to build up and threaten to choke him; but it also meant that he could go on feeling unprepared and end up messing up.

The latter seemed likely, and so to avoid it to the best of his ability, Yuuri immersed himself in the conversation between Phichit and Yosano, listening to their easy topics to take his mind off the daunting fact that he had to skate in front of an international audience in just over an hour.

A chill convulsed through his body at the thought, and he swallowed thickly, attempting to regulate his breathing as his heart fluttered uncomfortably in his chest. Looking around at the nervous faces of his other competitors helped slightly, although it also made him realise just how inexperienced he was in comparison; these were people who had been through more competitions than they could count on both hands, whereas Yuuri could count the entirety of his on just the one.

Phichit seemed notice his discomfort, as he placed a gentle hand on Yuuri’s shoulder, involving him in the conversation with questions and reassuring smiles at his answers; after a while had passed and Yuuri felt significantly calmer, Yosano led them into an empty room and instructed Yuuri to begin stretching, Phichit doing the same alongside him for encouragement.

Before he knew it, he had been through the designated warm up time on the ice too, and his name was being called to complete his program. He listened intently to the pep talks given to him by both his coach and best friend, yet it was Niki’s advice that was present in his mind as he stepped onto the ice with shaky breaths.

Skate like you’re the most beautiful person on the ice.

In the centre of the rink, Yuuri felt the air fill his lungs as he closed his eyes and waited for the music to begin; the first few notes rang out and the blurry sea of faces surrounding him remained silent, all watching him attentively. He didn’t know any of them, and he highly doubted any of them knew him either, he was just a new and young skater from a small town by the sea in Japan.

But he did know some of the people watching: Phichit, Yosano, his family and friends, even Niki. He wasn’t certain whether Viktor would be watching, but it was a possibility if he was interested in learning about his competitors – or even just sizing them up. He’d watched Yuuri in the qualifying competitions, although he doubted that he was very memorable, and so Yuuri wanted to make him remember, wanted to have his name in Viktor’s vocabulary.

With the image of Viktor’s eyes on him, Yuuri threw himself into his program with everything he had; he didn’t have time to worry about all of the other eyes on him, because at that moment he only cared about those belonging to a certain Russian.

By the end of his program, his whole body was shaking with exertion, his breaths short and ragged as a thin layer of sweat coated his forehead; it was a sign of a good performance, and although he didn’t have any quads like some of the other skaters, he still left the ice feeling proud. Apparently it was an emotion Phichit shared, as he was encased in a tight hug as soon as he was close enough, a laugh bubbling up from his throat as he returned it and headed to the kiss and cry.

Knowing his technical score was limited, Yuuri found he wasn’t too disappointed when his name took its place in the fourth spot; his coach had told him time and time again that the free skate could turn everything around, and luckily Yuuri had stamina on his side for it.

Despite hating losing, Yuuri found that even just being at the competition was an achievement in itself, not only had he been selected for this one, but he was also going to be skating in the Cup of Russia too – with Viktor.

A rush of excitement coursed through him at the reminder, and he bit his lip to supress the noises that threatened to escape.

After being led out of the kiss and cry, they took their seats to watch the other skaters, Yuuri eagerly awaiting the turn of Chris Giacometti. It seemed Phichit had the same sentiment, as he gripped Yuuri’s arm excitedly when he came into view; the Swiss boy smiled at the cheering audience and offered a wave and a wink, before turning to listen to his coach’s words, nodding determinedly.

As Chris took his starting position and the strumming of a guitar echoed throughout the stadium, Yuuri could understand why so many people were left swooning at his feet. He was not Yuuri’s cup of tea, but he could see the appeal, could appreciate that he was an attractive man; it was obvious to anyone that at eighteen he had so much potential, so much to give to the ice.

He moved fluidly, making his performance look as easy as walking, however when observing the components, Yuuri knew it was anything but. It was no mystery why Viktor had befriended someone like Chris, he was talented and attractive, who could compete with that?

Yuuri was neither of those things.

A voice in his head sighed exasperatedly at him, one that he could recognise as Niki’s, despite not being able to put an actual voice to it. He could already feel the disapproval he would receive if he shared those thoughts with him; the way he’d deny all of Yuuri’s dismissals of his abilities and not rest until he admitted he was wrong. Niki had said Yuuri had a beautiful smile too, granted, it had been during one of his ramblings when Yuuri was busy, but the compliment had still brought a blush to his cheeks at the time, and tried to once again whenever he thought about it.  

Distracted in his thoughts about Niki again, he didn’t notice Chris’ program had come to a close until he was pulled back into the present by a ripple of applause that grew louder and louder until it flooded the stadium, and he blew a kiss and bowed before taking his leave.

It was no surprise that he took second place, only a few points behind the skater at the top of the scoreboard and Yuuri found himself smiling for the other athlete, knowing how dedicated he was to the sport and that he deserved it.

The remainder of the competition flew by, and with the end of it, Yuuri found himself sitting in fifth place, knocked down by only one competitor despite the large number that had skated; still, he knew that he could make it onto the podium after his free skate if he completed it perfectly – or nearly enough.

“Great job, Yuuri!” Phichit grinned after seeing the leader board, wrapping his hands around Yuuri’s arms as he shook him excitedly, “I told you it would be fine.”

“Yeah, you did.” Yuuri nodded in agreement, gently peeling away his friend’s hands with a smile, “It was fine, but it wasn’t amazing or anything.”

“We’re not doing this this time.” Phichit shook his head, sighing dramatically as he placed his hands on Yuuri’s shoulders, beginning to steer him out of the rink and into the foyer, where Yosano was waiting for them after catching up with another coach he was friendly with.

“Yuuri, congratulations.” He smiled, waving goodbye to his old friend over his shoulder, “You’re going to do great in the free skate, so don’t worry, okay?”

“If you say so.” Yuuri sighed, wringing his hands together as he stared up at his name on one of the large screens in the room, hoping it was true.

 


 

In the end, the words had been true, and two days later Yuuri found himself standing in third place on the podium, a bronze medal hanging from his neck, and a beaming smile on his face as camera flashes went off all around him. Despite being there in that moment, with the weight of the medal as proof of his achievements, and the many photos that were sure to have been posted online already, Yuuri still couldn’t quite believe he’d done it.

He told Phichit as much after exiting the ice, his friend insisting on taking numerous selfies together to celebrate, and he rolled his eyes as he shook his medal in front of his face in confirmation. Interlocking his hand with Yuuri’s, he led them away from the chill of the ice and into the large entrance of the building.

People were scattered throughout the entirety of the room, and as they entered, a few of the other competitors turned and acknowledged Yuuri with a small smile and nod. The gesture left him with wide eyes and what would have been stuttering steps, had it not been for the force that was Phichit Chulanont behind him.

Chris was standing in one of the corners, speaking with someone who Yuuri quickly recognised as his coach, and by the smiles on each of their faces, it seemed they were pleased about the Swiss’ ranking. With a chuckle at something his coach said, Chris raked a hand through his blonde tips, tipping his head back in clear amusement; his green eyes scanned the faces passing by, briefly passing over Yuuri’s before snapping back and locking their gazes.

“Yuuri!” He called cheerily, his hand held up in greeting, and his teeth bared in a large grin; even Phichit seemed confused by this, his grip loosening on Yuuri’s shoulders as the two of them came to an abrupt stop.

Despite knowing he was the only Yuuri there, and that Chris was staring directly at him, Yuuri still pointed a finger at his chest in question, a puzzled look on his face.

With a roll of his eyes, a laugh escaped Chris’ lips as he nodded, gesturing for the two of them to come over; Phichit was already heading towards him before Yuuri had even processed what was happening, and he quickly caught up, not wanting to seem rude.

“Hello,” He purred, reaching out to take Yuuri’s hand and plant a soft kiss there; the smirk that he received from Phichit was enough confirmation that a blush had risen in his cheeks – something he could feel already from the burning of his face, “it’s lovely to meet you, Yuuri, congratulations on your win.”

“Y-you too.” He stuttered, pointedly ignoring the look his best friend was giving him as Chris dropped his hand and expressed his thanks, before turning his attention to Phichit himself.

“I’m afraid I haven’t had the pleasure to meet your acquaintance,” Chris pouted, raking his eyes up and down Phichit, before meeting his gaze with a wink, “and you are…?”

“Phichit Chulanont,” He offered coolly, although Yuuri could see the eagerness and excitement glistening in his eyes, growing even further as Chris pressed his lips to the back of his hand too, “Yuuri’s other half.”

“It’s wonderful to meet you,” He said, his lips quirked upwards as his eyes shifted between Yuuri and Phichit questioningly, “I wasn’t aware Yuuri had such a handsome boyfriend.”

Yuuri wasn’t sure which one of them laughed first, but before they knew it, the two of them had silently stared at each other for a moment before breaking out into synchronised fits of giggles, much to Chris’ confusion. It wasn’t an unreasonable assumption to make, and Yuuri could understand why someone would think that - especially given how casually intimate they were with their friendship, and how often they were together – but Phichit was like a brother, and a relationship between them wouldn’t be on the cards even if they wanted it to be.

 “Oh, no – he’s not – we’re not – “ Yuuri made a vague gesture between the two of them, hoping that it would be enough of an explanation without words, however, Phichit clarified for him anyway.

“What Yuuri is trying to say,” Phichit smirked, shifting his eyes towards Yuuri before returning them to Chris, “is that we’re not dating; in fact, there’s only one person he wants to date, and that’s V-“

“-Varieties of people who aren’t my best pal Phichit.” Yuuri quickly cut him off, shooting him a glare from the corner of his eye; he was certain that Phichit knew Chris and Viktor were friends, and him finding out about his infatuation with the Russian skater was one of the worst things that could happen.

“Oh, I’m sorry for assuming.” Chris apologised, rubbing the nape of his neck sheepishly, although with the reassurances of the two of them, he changed the subject swiftly, “Anyway, I was planning on going out for dinner later to celebrate, would you two like to join me? I know some great places not too far from the hotel.”

The offer caught Yuuri off guard, this was an athlete he’d been watching on his television for years, someone he looked up to – someone Viktor had dinner with regularly – and someone completely out of Yuuri’s league.

“We’d love to.” He accepted the invitation with a grin, not missing the impressed look Phichit gave him as he confirmed it with a nod; Chris smiled at that, exchanging numbers with each of them before his coach called him over and he departed with a promise to see them later.

“Yuuri…” Phichit began, his eyes trained on Chris as they watched him zip up his team jacket and take his leave, smiling at them as though they’d been friends for longer than five minutes, “are we really going out with Christophe Giacometti? In Paris? At an international competition?”

“Apparently.” Yuuri whispered, his eyebrows furrowed despite the upturn of his lips; and as he caught the sight of his reflection in a nearby window, he cringed at his dishevelled hair, “but first, I really need to shower.”

 

 


 

When Yuuri had been packing his suitcase for the competition, he’d double checked he had everything he needed: his costumes, his workout clothes, extra socks, extra t-shirts, and even more extra t-shirts on top of those – just in case for some inexplicable reason he ran out – but the one thing he hadn’t packed, was something to wear in the anticipation of being asked to dinner with Switzerland’s top male figure skater.

“Yuuri, you look fine.” Phichit sighed from where he was sitting on the edge of his bed, his chin resting on the palm of his hand; he had been ready for over half an hour, waiting for Yuuri to pick an outfit, apparently not understanding the concept of having ‘nothing to wear’ and expecting new clothes to sprout from his bag.

Yuuri stilled in rooting through his suitcase for a moment, slowly shifting his eyes from his mess of clothes, to the wall length mirror, and finally to Phichit.

“I’m in my underwear.”

“Exactly, and I’m sure you’d be doing everyone in the restaurant a favour by showing off that booty; but we’re not going to be able to go at all unless you just hurry up and pick something.” He whined, throwing his head back in exasperation as Yuuri continued to stare at his pitiful array of tshirts and jeans.

“But I want to look nice.” Yuuri sighed, internally cursing himself for not bringing one of his smart shirts along; the last thing he needed was Chris to think he was a slob, or worse, tell Viktor that he was.

“You need to chill out, if this was Viktor then I would almost understand you putting in this much effort, but Chris is just being friendly; he’s not going to care what you wear – besides, I doubt Viktor would even care that much.” Phichit rose from his seat as he spoke, making his way over to his own suitcase, where he fished out a small navy shirt and threw it at his chest to catch.

Yuuri took the item in his hands, holding it out in front of his face as he stared at it with relief, before quickly pulling an arm through each sleeve and buttoning it up; knowing that his best friend would not have any bottoms for him to borrow, he resorted to slipping on the black skinny jeans he’d bought. Not wanting to delay them any more than he already had, Yuuri surveyed his outfit in the mirror with a smile, deeming it acceptable to wear with a nod.

The fabric was soft against his skin, and the slightly fitted sides flattered his figure to give him that extra boost of confidence he needed for the night ahead; with Phichit not particularly being a fan of long sleeved shirts, there were permanent creases along his arms, and so Yuuri was quick to roll them up, pushing the cuffed ends up his forearms before shrugging on his jacket with a satisfied sigh.

Already waiting eagerly by the door, Phichit shifted excitedly on his feet as Yuuri slipped his shoes on and tied the laces with practised ease; as soon as he’d pulled them tight, he was being pushed through the door by an enthusiastic pair of hands, and he just had time to slip his phone and wallet into his pockets before he was standing in the middle of the corridor ready to go.

“Come on Yuuri, we can’t keep Chris waiting.” Phichit was already hastily making his way towards the lifts, not turning back as he spoke; and so Yuuri lengthened his strides to catch up with him, brushing a hand through the hair he hadn’t been given time to tame.

Upon entering the lobby, the found that they hadn’t been keeping Chris waiting, but rather the other way around; pulling his phone from his pocket, he decided to send a quick text to let him know they were ready.

 

True to his word, Chris stepped out of one of the lifts a few minutes later, his hair pushed back and meticulously styled with gel, while he wore an outift similar to Yuuri’s – although his shirt was far tighter.

He greeted them with a cheery smile and a kiss to each of their cheeks, Yuuri’s blush reappearing, while Phichit’s amused smirk did the same.

“So,” Chris began, brushing away imaginary lint from his shoulders, before gesturing to the exit with a subtle jerk of his head, “shall we get going?”  

Yuuri nodded dumbly while Phichit answered for the both of them, agreeing that it was a good idea for them to head to wherever it was they would be dining.

The cool chill of the November evening bit into Yuuri’s hands as they exited the building, causing him to shiver and shove them into his deep pockets, curling in on himself for warmth. If his companions were also cold, they didn’t show it, their expressions remaining impassive as they ventured through the Parisian streets in light jackets.

Fortunately, they weren’t exposed to the cold for long, Chris’ earlier promise of knowing places close to the hotel ringing true; in less than ten minutes of walking they reached a small plaza with an array of cafes and restaurants situated within it. Familiar with them after many trips to the city, Chris began to recommend those he was fond of, and disregard those which hadn’t taken to his liking in the past.

After a moment of consideration, they mutually decided on the one with the least people, requesting a booth at the back where they could chat easily without having to compete with other people’s conversations and the music playing overhead.

While Yuuri and Phichit sat beside each other on one of the benches, Chris took his seat opposite, placing himself between the two of them as he settled back with a content sigh. The waitress who had seated them offered each of them a menu, conversing in fluent French with Chris as Yuuri and Phichit watched with polite smiles, appreciating the language despite their lack of knowledge surrounding it.

“I’ve ordered some water for the table,” Chris began to explain, his eyes shifting between them, “but I’ll also be getting wine, would you two like some too?”

“Oh, no thank you.” Yuuri declined, waving the offer away with a shake of his hand, “We’re underage.”

Yuuri wasn’t entirely sure of the laws surrounding alcohol in France, although he was familiar enough to know that the age was typically lower in European countries, but not the specifics, and he would rather not take any chances; besides, it didn’t feel right to drink it when he wouldn’t had he been back home.

Chris respected his decision anyway, shaking his head at the waitress and when she departed a moment later, he opened his menu and Yuuri followed, scanning his eyes over the unfamiliar dishes and words with hesitation, unsure to what exactly he was reading. It brought some consolation when he saw that Phichit seemed to be in the same position, as his eyes were narrowed and his brows pulled together as his stared at his own menu.

Seemingly realizing their issue, a laugh escaped Chris’ lips as he shook his head amusedly at himself, “I’m sorry, I didn’t really think this through, would you prefer if I just ordered for the both of you?”

Yuuri was sure that even if Chris had listed every item and explained its ingredients in English, it was still unlikely he would even know what the meal was, and so with a nod of his head, he gratefully accepted the offer and placed his closed menu back onto the table, Phichit doing the same.

The waitress returned soon after, with a large jug of water, three tall glasses, a bottle of wine and a glass to accompany it, all balanced expertly on a circular tray; she delicately placed them on the table between them, receiving a thank you from each of them – at least that was a word Yuuri had been certain to know before stepping foot off the airplane.

Pulling a notebook from the black apron tied round her waist, she was quick to take the pencil from behind her ear and began scribbling down their order, listening intently as Chris relayed the items, occasionally asking a question and pointing at specific items on the menu.

Soon enough, she repeated the order back to him, the two of them sharing a smile when Chris confirmed it, and she collected the menus before hastily leaving once again to pass it on to the kitchen staff.

Yuuri brought his glass to his lips and sipped on the cool liquid as he waited for someone to say something and get the conversation flowing; he was much better at listening and occasionally contributing to what people were saying than bringing up new topics, so it was a relief when Chris was the first to speak.

“You did wonderfully today, Yuuri, congratulations.” He complimented with a grin, causing Yuuri to splutter and swallow his mouthful of water as a blush dusted his cheeks.

“Oh - erm, thanks,” He cringed at himself as he spoke, already trying to shift the focus away from him onto someone else, “you too! I mean, although I guess you already know that, considering you got the silver medal.”

“You flatter me, mon chéri,” Chris purred, bringing his glass to his lips and taking a long sip, one eyebrow raised as he did so, “but a bronze is excellent too, no?”

“Yes, I’m delighted with it!” Yuuri nodded enthusiastically, lighting up at the thought of being able to bring home another success, and another medal to his family.

“That’s wonderful to hear, as you should be,” Chris agreed, swirling the crimson liquid in his glass before swallowing a large mouthful, “so where else are you assigned?”

“The Cup of Russia.” Yuuri informed him, noticing the way his eyes lit up at the new information and he seemed to be trying to fight a smile.

“Viktor is going to be there too!” Chris grinned exaggeratedly, giggling slightly to himself; Yuuri noted that it seemed that contrary to what the tabloids said, Chris was definitely a lightweight.

“I know.” Yuuri admitted, not seeing the need to play dumb, was it really such a bad thing to know which skaters he would be competing against in his competitions? He didn’t think so, at least.

“You know what you don’t know though?” Chris smirked, his glass now half empty – or half full; glancing at the bottle, Yuuri made a note to avoid that particular brand in the future after realising how strong it must be.

“Ummm.” Yuuri was unsure of what to say to that; there were many things Yuuri didn’t know, but listing all of them was an impossible task.

Chris hiccupped loudly, the action catching him off guard and distracting him from whatever he was going to say as he placed a hand over his chest and furrowed his eyebrows, as if he had been personally offended by the response.

“He talks about you all the time, you know.” Chris mumbled, finishing the remnants of his glass’ contents and refilling it, tapping his fingers against the table as he stared across the restaurant, probably in search of their food.

“Who?” Yuuri asked confusedly, the way Chris had brought it up made it sound like he was talking about –

“Viktor, duh.” He shrugged, as though it was obvious, only resulting in Yuuri becoming even more puzzled; when he didn’t respond, Chris expanded, “It’s always: ‘Yuuri this’, ‘Yuuri that’. I think I know enough about you to write a small biography, even though this is the first time we’ve properly had a chance to talk.”

As Yuuri only continued to stare at him, completely perplexed, thoughts began to whirl around his mind, had Chris found out about his crush on Viktor? Was this him teasing him about it?

Swallowing the lump in his throat, Yuuri took a sip of his drink as a means of something to do; after watching Chris for a moment, he saw no malice or bad intentions in those olive eyes and –

-oh.

Suddenly it clicked.

A bark of laughter bubbled from Yuuri’s throat as he shook his head, puffing out a breath of air, “Oh, you must mean Yuri Plisetsky.”

“That’s Viktor’s brother, right?” Phichit helpfully supplied, his own cloud of confusion seeming to have dissipated at the realisation too.

Chris was the one who looked confused now, his lips formed on the edge of a sentence, before his eyes widened and he looked as though he’d just said something he shouldn’t have; the look was gone almost as soon as it had appeared, and Yuuri shook his head, chalking it down to his imagination.

“Oh, yes of course! How silly of me.” Chris chuckled at himself, confirming his mistake and Yuuri was suddenly hit by an odd flash of disappointment – which didn’t even make sense, because there was no way Chris could have been talking about him.

Shaking off the feeling, he offered a smile, although he needed to satisfy his curiosity, “So, what’s he like?”

“Viktor?” Chris asked, his lips quirked up as he hid a smirk.

“Mm.” Yuuri nodded, resting his chin on his hand as he stared at Chris, ready to hear all about the boy he’d idolised for years.

“He’s not like the media portrays him.” Chris waved a fork at Yuuri, his vague statement hanging in the air between them.

“And how’s that?” Yuuri questioned, there were many portrayals of Viktor, some of them kind, some of them less so; but he was unsure which Chris was referring to.

“You know,” he rolled his eyes, making air quotes with his fingers, “’the Russian heartbreaker; young and careless.”

“Oh?” Yuuri raised an eyebrow, the curiosity clear in his tone.

“The truth is,” Chris whispered, leaning closer as though he was sharing a secret, “he’s a romantic. In fact, he’s never had a serious relationship; I’ve tried to set him up with people before but he wasn’t interested, he said he’s waiting to find someone who really grabs his attention, and that he doesn’t want to waste anyone’s time – that’s what he said to me too when he turned me down.”

Although Yuuri’d had his suspicions about the nature of Chris and Viktor’s relationship, the confirmation that at least Chris was attracted to Viktor - or had been in the past – piqued his interest even more and he wanted to know the story behind it.

Luckily, Chris seemed to sense this, and explained without Yuuri needing to ask, “I had this super huge crush on him,” he cringed, rubbing a hand down his face in embarrassment, and Yuuri had to bite his tongue from reassuring him that he understood the attraction.

“Anyway, we hung out at all the competitions and my crush only grew, I thought there was something there that wasn’t there, so I kissed him after we both made the podium because I got excited and caught up in the moment. Turned out he didn’t feel the same after all, and he pushed me away,” Chris recalled, to his credit not looking too upset about it, instead chuckling with a fond smile, “To be honest, I think he was more embarrassed about accidentally leading me on, than I was about being rejected.”

Yuuri wasn’t sure what to say to that, surely liking someone who didn’t like you back would hurt, and yet Chris seemed to talk about it so casually.

“He sounds like a good guy,” Phichit said thoughtfully, before a look of confusion settled over his features, “So what happened? How do you come back from a rejection like that?”

“That’s the funny part, I guess,” Chris hummed, running a finger along the rim of his glass, while his lips were quirked upwards in a ghost of a smile, “I felt so embarrassed for Viktor, and how much he was apologising that I forgot all about my own embarrassment; we talked it out and decided there were no hard feelings, and neither of us wanted to lose our friendship so we made it water under the bridge. To be honest, although it was pretty mortifying at the time, in the long run it made us closer because I was no longer tiptoeing around my feelings, and we can laugh about it now.”

“That’s good to hear, I’m glad you worked it out;” Yuuri commented warmly, “you two seem pretty close.”

“We are.” Chris confirmed, his eyes sparkling with fondness for the Russian skater, “I think you would get along, he’s lovely, and you’re lovely so it’s like…double the loveliness.”

Yuuri was doubting it had been a good idea for Chis to drink so much wine, his intoxication becoming apparent when he had begun to grin at Yuuri, his chin resting on his hand; it seemed that he was an affectionate drunk, one who spouted nonsense in the form of compliments and handed them out too often.

“Thank you, you’re lovely too,” he laughed awkwardly, his mind racing at the thought of meeting Viktor and actually getting along, of seeing the lovely side of him Chris was so pleased about, “I think we would too, although I doubt I’ll have the opportunity to find out.”

“What makes you say that?” Chris frowned, his eyebrows sagging as he stared at Yuuri questioningly, waiting for a response.

“Oh, just because I’m sure he’ll be really busy at the Cup of Russia, and he’ll have better skaters to talk to.” Yuuri knew it probably wasn’t the best idea to share his doubts and insecurities with Chris, but he was so easy to talk to that he found the words coming out on their own, his habit of doubting himself laid on the table for him to see.

“Don’t be silly,” Chris laughed, clicking his tongue as he brushed away the statement with a wave of his hand, “Viktor would love to talk to you in person.”

The phrasing of Chris’ words struck Yuuri as odd, but he was quick to shake it off, realising it was probably just him misunderstanding the English and he fought off the blush threatening to spill onto his cheeks, “I’d love to talk to him too.”

Chris looked positively delighted at that, his eyes lighting up as he straightened in his seat and fished his phone from his jacket, “I’ll let him know, he’ll be over the moon!”

“Chris, no!” Yuuri gasped, horrified; his eyes were wide as he shook his hands frantically, cringing at the thought of Viktor receiving a text that some random skater wanted to chat, “He probably doesn’t even know who I am, please don’t.”

Luckily, he listened, and he mumbled something to himself that sounded like a berating as he shook his head and tucked the device away again with an apologetic smile, “Sorry, I’ll let you introduce yourself; although, you’re not as elusive as you like to think, Yuuri. People have already started noticing you.”

“Is Viktor one of them?” Phichit inquired, ignoring the glare Yuuri shot him as he hid his head in his hands with a groan.

“Viktor notices all of his competitors,” Chris shrugged nonchalantly, although the glint in his eye did nothing to hide his smirk, “especially the talented ones; I’m pretty sure he’s known about you for longer than you think.”

The vague remark left Yuuri feeling slightly puzzled once again, but he decided to dismiss the feeling as it was at that moment that the waitress returned with their meals, placing each of them on the table, and departing once again with a cheery, “Bon appétit!”

Upon seeing Yuuri’s eyes appraising the dish in front of him, Chris chuckled, “It’s poulet basquaise,” he explained, gesturing to it with a wave of his cutlery, “chicken, tomatoes, peppers; all the good stuff. It’s delicious, don’t worry.”

Yuuri wasn’t worried, just curious; but nodded nonetheless and picked up the knife and fork hesitantly, the feeling slightly odd after so many years of using chopsticks. Watching Chris slice through his food easily, Yuuri was able to get the hang of it quickly, understanding why so many people used them as he stabbed a piece of chicken and brought it to his lips.

Chris had been right, it was delicious, and he made a small sound of satisfaction as the flavours rolled over his tongue, all mixing and merging together along with the rich sauce.

The conversation drifted from Viktor as they ate their meal, Chris shifting the topics by asking questions about what it was like in Japan - and Thailand, upon learning that was where Phichit had migrated from - while looking genuinely interested in their anecdotes and explanations as he nodded along; he received the same response in return as he described Switzerland with softness laced into his features, Yuuri and Phichit listening intently to each word he spoke.

The evening slipped away from them as they immersed themselves in easy conversation with good company, and before they knew it, Yuuri’s phone began to buzz incessantly and he was greeted by his coach’s name on his screen, accompanied by the display of a late hour.

“Hello, Yosano-sensei!” He greeted cheerily, hoping he wasn’t about to be scolded for being out so late when they had an early flight the following morning.

“Yuuri-kun, do you know what time it is?” He asked slowly, trying to sound authoritative without overstepping.

“Umm, eleven thirty?” He answered dumbly, wincing at the sigh that came from the other end of the call.

“Yuuri, I’m not your parent, so I can’t tell you it’s time to leave; however, as your coach - who is responsible for your health and wellbeing in a foreign country - I’m recommending that you and Phichit should head back soon.”

 “Okay, we will,” Yuuri agreed honestly, not particularly wanting to find his way back to the hotel when it was even later and darker than it had already gotten, “we’ll be back within the hour, don’t worry.”

“That’s good to hear, enjoy the rest of your evening and I’ll see you in the lobby at six am tomorrow.”

“I will, thank you; see you then!” Yuuri exchanged goodbyes with his coach before ending the call, informing Chris they would need to head back in a little while, and he agreed with a nod of his head, a small yawn ripping through him at the same time.

After paying their bill and bringing their conversation to a close, the three of them took their leave, wandering though the now familiar streets in a comfortable chatter, the soft glow of the streetlamps kissing the pavement beneath their feet.

Although a part of Yuuri couldn’t wait to be home, another part of him was also reluctant to leave; despite initially being intimidating in its unfamiliarity, he had to admit that Paris had a certain charm to it, one he would miss once he’d boarded the plane and found himself thousands of feet above it.

Not only would he miss Paris, but he would also miss the feeling of being surrounded by those who loved figure skating as much as he did, watching their programs and having his own watched in return. Competing in the Trophée Éric Bompard had been an experience he doubted he would ever forget, even more so after meeting and somehow managing to befriend Chris Giacometti, while adding his phone number to the small number of contacts in his phone in the process.

He didn’t have long until his next competition, just a little under a month, and Yuuri was already thinking about it, thinking about seeing Viktor Nikiforov skate in person, and not on his small television screen. Having dinner with Chris had helped to dissipate some of the fog surrounding Viktor’s untouchable persona, had allowed Yuuri to begin to see him as Chris’ friend Viktor who likes figure skating, in place of Russia’s skating prodigy Viktor Nikiforov.

After years of looking up to him, and aspiring to be just like him though, Yuuri couldn’t shake away some of his admiration; leaving Viktor on a pedestal anyway, although this one was no longer as high.

As they finally reached their hotel, Yuuri exhaled contentedly as a wave of warmth washed over him upon stepping inside, and Chris embraced each of them in a friendly hug as he bid them adieu.

“It was lovely to meet you,” He smiled, his eyes sweeping between the two of them before landing on Yuuri, “I hope to see you at the Final, yes?”

“You too, and I hope so; I’ll try my best to get there.” Yuuri was unsure as to what the future would hold in regards to the competition, he highly doubted he would actually make it to the final, but he wasn’t going down without a fight, that much he was certain about.

“Excellent, that’s what I like to hear.” Chris beamed, patting Yuuri’s shoulder encouragingly before finally offering a wave and turning on his heel to head to his room, calling out a ‘good luck’ over his shoulder and disappearing from sight.

Yuuri was grateful for the words, and although he knew Chris was probably just saying them to be polite, if he was going to be skating against Viktor Nikiforov of all people, he needed all the luck he could get.

 


 

As soon as Yuuri had changed into his pyjamas and was comfortably laid in bed, the first thing he did was message Niki, regardless of the lateness of the night and the possibility that he was already asleep.

 

                  

 

Chapter Text

As the end of November approached, it brought the yearly chill that settled over Hasetsu and made it its home, and along with it, brought Yuuri’s birthday. Despite most people being very enthusiastic about their special day, Yuuri found that although he shared some of the same excitement, it was not at the same extent to which others did. That’s why he didn’t expect Niki of all people to remember the date, and found himself unable to supress a smile when it was brought up.

 

With his curiosity piqued, Yuuri opened his email, now understanding why Niki had asked for it a week or so ago, and sure enough, there was a message waiting in his inbox.

 

The photos took a while to load, but once they did, a small gasp escaped Yuuri’s lips at the sight of them. Makka was just as adorable as she’d been when Niki sent a photo to him all those weeks ago, except this time he had more content, had more photos to find himself grinning at.

Niki hadn’t needed to send these to Yuuri, hadn’t even needed to acknowledge his birthday – Yuuri wouldn’t blame him if he’d forgotten – but the fact that he’d taken the time to capture these moments and send them to him was so incredibly thoughtful, and he found himself placing a hand to his chest to soothe his fluttering heart.

 

The abstract thought of meeting Niki one day had always been just that, but now that it was a reality, and something that was actually going to happen, Yuuri felt the excitement within him bubbling.

Rationally, he knew that meeting someone he’d originally met online had its dangers, and was something to approach with trepidation, but the fact that Niki hadn’t protested Phichit being there too, and had made sure Yuuri was definitely comfortable with meeting him helped him to push away those doubts.

If everything went according to plan, then in just over a week, Yuuri would have a face to put with the person he’d been talking to for the past few months, would be able to thank Niki in person for everything he’d done for him. Not only that, but he’d be able to show Niki that his skating was worthy of the praise he received from him, and that all the compliments weren’t empty ones given only to make him feel better.

As Yuuri placed his phone and glasses on the table beside his bed, and flicked the lamp off to set his room in a comfortable darkness, he allowed his mind to wander and string together ideas of what Niki might look like. His curiosity had climbed higher after now knowing that it would soon be satisfied, and he felt that no matter how many faces he could conjure up, none of them would do Niki justice.


 

In retrospect, it should have been obvious to Yuuri that if Niki hadn’t forgotten his birthday, it probably meant that neither had his family or best friend. Despite that knowledge, when woken up at an early hour, the fog in his head left him confused as he was met by the cheery faces of Mari and his parents.

“What’s wrong?” He asked stupidly, sleep laced in his voice as he rubbed at his eyes and retrieved his glasses, still too tired to understand what was going on.

A bark of laughter bubbled from Mari’s throat as she shook her head, moving from where she was standing to perch on the side of Yuuri’s bed, ruffling his hair with an amused smile.

“Happy birthday, Dancing Queen.” She pulled a small parcel from behind her and held it out for Yuuri to take, but he was still staring at her with a puzzled look on his face.

“Dancing Queen?” He asked, his eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

Mari only stared back at him with her mouth slightly agape, looking on the verge of offended, “You don’t know Dancing Queen? ABBA? One of the greatest hits ever released?”

“Erm…” Yuuri just blinked several times, before shaking his head, resulting in a sigh from his older sister as she turned to face their parents, who only shrugged and smiled softly at Yuuri.

Yuuri knew that Mari was much more interested in music than him and their parents combined, and it seemed she understood that too, chuckling with a roll of her eyes as she motioned for him to open his present.

As he took it in his hands, a gentle smile tugged at his lips. It had been carefully wrapped with brown parcel paper and several layers of tape, finished with a length of string crossing over neatly in the middle and tied in a delicate bow. The paper crinkled beneath his fingertips as he pulled the bow loose, the string falling away easily as he turned it over and began to peel the many layers of tape away.

The material was soft when he pulled it out, and as he turned it over, a grin began to form on his face. He looked up to see Mari watching him, her lip caught between her teeth before she released it and rubbed the back of her neck sheepishly.

“I know it’s not much, but I saw that your gloves were thinning and looking a bit worse for wear, and when I saw these I couldn’t resist.” She smiled fondly at the gloves in Yuuri’s hands, before her eyes glistened teasingly and a smirk was playing on her lips, “Besides, I know you’re too stubborn to buy new ones, and would probably still wear your old ones until they literally fell apart on your hands.”

Yuuri couldn’t deny the truth in her statement, and he chuckled at that, knowing that she was probably right. He was still touched by her gift nevertheless, and gently unfolded them, slipping his fingers inside and stretching them as he turned his hands over, studying the small brown poodles which had been embroidered onto the back of each one.

“They look just like Vicchan.” His mother commented delightedly, her hands resting on her cheeks as her lips were stretched into a fond smile. It was at that moment that said poodle bounded into the room, leaping straight onto Yuuri’s bed and revelling at the attention he received when Yuuri buried his hands in his fur and stroked him tenderly, giggling when he began to lick stripes onto his face.

The liveliness of his poodle rubbed off on Yuuri, and it did not go unnoticed by his parents, who were still standing by the edge of his bed, watching with mirth in their eyes.

“Well that’s one way to wake him up.” Yuuri’s father remarked, the low rumble of his laughter vibrating through the room as his mother nudged him and they exchanged an amused look.

“I don’t know why we ever bothered buying an alarm clock and a dog.”

“Hey,” Yuuri whined, a smile on his lips despite himself, “I’m not that bad.”

The room erupted with the laughter of his family then, each of them shaking their heads. It was common knowledge in the Katsuki household that Yuuri was many things, but a morning person was not one of them. His mother had said on many occasions, that if given the opportunity to, Yuuri would spend the entirety of the weekend in his bed, only leaving to gather food and use the bathroom.

Despite profoundly denying it, Yuuri couldn’t fully convince himself that it was a lie, the idea sounding quite tempting if it hadn’t been for his ballet lessons and the desire to get onto the ice and practise as much as possible.

“In my defence, you did wake me up way earlier than necessary this morning.” Yuuri whined, glancing at the clock and wincing when he saw that any other day he would have been asleep for at least another half hour.

“Sorry for wanting to make sure you had time to open your presents before school.” Mari feigned an apologetic tone, her eyebrows drawn together and a pout on her lips as sarcasm dripped from her words, “We are truly the worst, please forgive us Yuuri.”

“Ugh, you’re so annoying.” Yuuri groaned, shoving his sister playfully from where she was still sitting, earning a laugh from her as she – very maturely – stuck her tongue out at him and he rolled his eyes, “How are you twenty-three, when you act like you’re three?”

“It’s a gift.” She shrugged, rising to her feet and ruffling his hair again before making her way to the door, their parents following closely behind her.

“We’ll have breakfast ready for you, so come down whenever you’re ready.” Hiroko smiled, ushering her husband and daughter out of the room before sliding the screen closed behind the three of them, leaving Yuuri to get prepared for the day ahead.

The thought of having to sit through so many lessons didn’t sit well with Yuuri, and he wanted nothing more than to bury his head in his pillow and fall back into a comfortable sleep. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option, and so with a long sigh, he carefully pushed Vicchan from where he was sitting on his lap, moving him to sit on the mattress instead as he peeled away his covers and rose to his feet, stretching his arms above his head as a yawn ripped through him.

Despite hating having to wake up earlier than strictly necessary, Yuuri had to admit that it was nice to be able to take his time when getting ready, and not have to rush in the fear of being late. Nevertheless, it still didn’t take him very long, and soon enough, he was fully dressed in his uniform and heading downstairs, where his family were serving those of the guests who were also up at such an early hour.

A few of them were regulars Yuuri recognised, and they turned their attention from the television playing the morning news, instead smiling up at him with raised cups of teas, offering a greeting and a cheerful, ‘Happy birthday!’

Yuuri blushed, thanking them bashfully as he took his seat at the low table and eagerly dug into the food his family had prepared, each of them joining him one by one after they had served their customers, and everyone was contently making their way through their own breakfast.

Conversation flowed light and easy, from his parents discussing their plans for the day and what needed doing at the inn, to Mari asking Yuuri what lessons he had and how they were going. It was familiar and calming, and put Yuuri in a good mood as he finished up and pulled his backpack over his shoulders, slipping his shoes on by the front door.

He called out a goodbye, receiving one in return from his family, as well as some of the patrons he was familiar with, and with a chuckle, he slipped out and began his walk to school with a smile on his lips.

As he made his way through the awakening streets, a small shiver rushed through Yuuri and he pulled his beanie down to cover the tips of his reddening ears, feeling his hair becoming messier at the adjustment.

He’d barely made it through the gates before he heard the unmistakable sound of footsteps rapidly approaching, followed by arms encasing him in a tight hug, and he turned with a smile already formed on his lips, “Hi, Phichit.”

“Yuuri!” He greeted cheerily, excitement radiating from his beaming smile, “Happy birthday!”

“Thank you.” Yuuri smiled, gently loosening his best friend’s grip on him as he offered a small chuckle, “But it’s not really that big of a deal.”

Not that big of a deal?” Phichit asked disbelievingly, apparently aghast at the thought, “You just turned seventeen, do you know how many times that happens, Yuuri? Do you?

“Um…once?” Yuuri asked slowly, his eyebrows drawn together in thought, wondering if it was a trick question.

“Once!” Phichit confirmed, holding up a single finger for emphasis, and waving it in Yuuri’s face with raised eyebrows. When he only stared at it with an unamused expression, Phichit sighed and shook his head, “Okay, fine. But at least one thing to be excited about is that you’re finally the same age as your darling husband Viktor again.”

Despite wanting to roll his eyes at the mention of the Russian skater being brought up once again, Yuuri fought the urge and only let out a breathless laugh of amusement, before worrying his lip between his teeth, “Don’t remind me. I mean, look how much more he’s achieved than me at the same age, I’m never going to catch up to him.”

“Yuuri, my dude.” Phichit sighed, placing a hand to his forehead, before removing it to place both of them on Yuuri’s shoulders, “It’s not a competition – wait, I mean, of course it’s a competition, that’s the whole reason why they have scores, and a leader board, and medals; it would be pretty pointless without it, because where would be the entertainment without that? But -  sorry, I’m rambling. But my point is, you don’t always have to compare yourself to him. He’s great, there’s no denying that, but so are you! You need to start focusing on becoming a better you, not a better Viktor.”

“Thanks, Phichit. I guess you’re right.” Yuuri upturned his lips, lightly biting the skin there in thought. He knew that it probably wasn’t the best idea to compare himself to the other skater so often, but he’d been such a large inspiration for so long that he couldn’t help it.

“You guess?” Phichit questioned with a raised eyebrow, although there was a small smirk on his lips which betrayed his façade of being offended.                                                          

“Okay, okay. Yeah, you’re right.” Yuuri chuckled, rolling his eyes and indulging his friend in the satisfaction of hearing those words.

“Good, now that we’ve established I’m right about everything,” Phichit grinned, wrapping one hand around Yuuri’s arm and leading him into the building, while holding up a finger to silence his disagreement, “we can also agree that your birthday is a big deal, and that I’m taking you somewhere tonight.”

“Where?” Yuuri asked, knowing it was pointless to try and convince Phichit he didn’t want to do anything - and that even if he did, he’d probably still show up outside Yuuri’s house anyway and drag him somewhere like an excitable puppy.

“It’s a secret.”

Yuuri should have expected as much, after all, there was nothing more that Phichit loved more than an opportunity to tease Yuuri, and on his birthday nonetheless. With a small groan, he nudged his friend and shook his head in slight exasperation; realistically, he knew there was nothing to worry about, and although Phichit seemed to love having a one-up on Yuuri, he wouldn’t do anything particularly embarrassing or out of the ordinary.

“You’re not doing anything already, right?” Phichit asked belatedly, and a laugh escaped Yuuri’s lips before he’d even had time to register it. Of course Phichit would announce he’d made plans for them, and only check if Yuuri was free afterwards.

“No, not really. I was just going to stay in and my mum was going to cook katsudon, but I’m sure she won’t mind waiting until we get back from wherever it is we’re going.” He shrugged nonchalantly, making a mental reminder to text Mari and let her know of the change in plans. His mother had never been one of the lucky few who followed along with the adaption of new technology, and when given a phone, she’d spent over twenty minutes trying to figure out how to simply open her messages. A fond smile ghosted over Yuuri’s lips at the memory.

“’Till we get back’? Is that your way of letting me know I’m invited over too?” Phichit poked Yuuri in the side as his eyes glistened playfully, and it only sent a small wave of confusion his way.

“I thought that was pretty much a given, you already know how much my family adores you.” He explained with furrowed eyebrows, blinking confusedly at him as they made their way to their homeroom.

“Of course they do,” Phichit scoffed, pressing a hand over his heart as if the alternative wasn’t even an option – and Yuuri had to agree -, “but I can’t just invite myself over to your home, that would be rude.”

“It’s your home too.” Yuuri waved a hand dismissively, the comment ringing true; he’d spent so much time at his house over the past few months that he could probably come down for breakfast one day out of the blue and no one would bat an eyelid.

Yuuri,” Phichit stopped as they walked, his hand still over his heart, however this time for a different reason. His free hand was brought up to wipe away a non-existent tear from his eye, the very epitome of dramatic, “that is so sweet. You can’t just say something like that.”

“Even if it’s true?” Yuuri smiled, enjoying the feeling of catching Phichit off guard for once, rather than it being the other way around. However, he found himself quickly slipping back into their playful banter almost instantly, “I mean, besides, the amount of contribution you’ve made to the decorations with all of those posters surely counts for something.”

“You’re right. Maybe I should be an interior designer!” Phichit exclaimed, sarcasm hidden behind his impressively convincing tone, “Personally, I think that my work has been a masterpiece so far. If I did pursue it as a career, would you hire me to decorate your house Yuuri? What am I saying? Of course you would, I just have to design a room and add one piece of Viktor Nikiforov merchandise and you’d be sold.”

“Ha, very funny.” Yuuri deadpanned, no longer fighting the urge to roll his eyes, and did so with exaggeration, driving home the fact that he was unimpressed with his friend’s antics.

“What about a cushion? Would you like a cushion? How about a fridge magnet? Or a keychain?” Phichit listed off in questions, his thumb and forefinger pinched against his chin as though he was deeply thinking, before nodding to himself and then Yuuri, “Everyone likes keychains, right?”

“You’re right.”

“Actually, that reminds me, I’ll give you your present when I see you later.” Phichit said, his expression not giving away any hints as to whether Yuuri should be excited or worried about the gift.

“Thank you, but you didn’t need to get me anything!” Yuuri insisted honestly. Just having Phichit and his family for company was more than enough to help him celebrate his birthday, but this time Phichit was the one who waved his hand at Yuuri and shot him a look.

“Don’t be silly, of course I did. You’re my best friend.”

“Well, thank you anyway.” Yuuri smiled gratefully, following his friend to the empty seats at the back of the room, making themselves comfortable as they waited for the bell to ring, and officially start the long day ahead of them.


 

As it turned out, Phichit had in fact decided to keep his surprise location tame, much to Yuuri’s relief, and several hours later, he found himself being led through the streets Hasetsu with a – badly improvised – blindfold made from Phichit’s tie.

Luckily, the sun had already begun to set and was hiding just below the horizon. The few people they passed recognised Yuuri, and news of his birthday had spread through the sleepy town, so no one seemed to question why a teenager was being led blindfolded through the dark.

Despite Phichit trying to be secretive and discreet about their whereabouts, the path they walked was one Yuuri knew like the back of his hand, one that he could do himself even with the blindfold on and without the guiding hand intertwined with his.

He noticed the cold bite of the Ice Castle as soon as they stepped through the door, and feigned surprise when he was given back his sight to be met with a proud looking Phichit. Before he could express his confusion at why they were here, and why his friend had felt the need to be so vague about it, Phichit seemed to sense this and was quick to explain.

“I know you’re probably wondering why I brought you here, especially when you come pretty much every day,” Phichit began, holding up a hand as he spoke, “but I was wondering what I could do for your birthday and knew you wouldn’t want anything huge. So I thought to myself: what does Yuuri like to do to relax?

“And after thinking that ‘Yuuri’ and ‘relax’ don’t really belong in the same sentence,” he joked with a teasing glint in his eye, earning a small chuckle from Yuuri, “I remembered that it was skating, of course it was.

“I spoke to your friend Yuuko, who spoke to her parents, and they agreed to close it off for a few hours for an extra private session. I know you already have a lot of those, but today we’re skating for fun. No harsh routines, no focusing on your presentation and no focusing on your technicality. In fact, the only thing you’re allowed to focus on is how much of a great time you’re having - and how great your best friend is.”   

With the hopeful look on Phichit’s face lighting up the room, Yuuri didn’t hesitate before throwing his arms around him in a thankful embrace. He hadn’t realised this was exactly what he needed until now. The pressure of having to perform a perfect routine at each practise session in preparation for the competition had been taking its toll, and the opportunity to just get back onto the ice without any expectations looming over him seemed like a perfect idea.

“Thank you!” Yuuri grinned, being handed his skating bag which had been slung over Phichit’s shoulder with his own, the two of them hastily lacing up their skates before made their way to the barrier. Yuuri was already itching to be skating, shifting on his feet as he waited for Phichit to hook his phone up to the sound system, music beginning to play only a moment later.

As soon as his blades cut into the freshly smoothed ice, Yuuri sighed at the familiarity and already felt himself becoming at ease. Phichit was by his side, following his slow pace as they warmed up and completed laps in a comfortable chatter, his friend recounting another one of his anecdotes featuring the hamsters he was so fond of as Yuuri listened, biting back a laugh at the story.

It wasn’t long, however, before Phichit became giddy and excitable, suddenly manoeuvring so that he was ahead of Yuuri and spinning around so they were face to face. His hands interlocked with Yuuri’s as he skated backwards while pulling him along. Laughter bubbled up from their throats and echoed around the otherwise empty rink, blending with the upbeat song that was playing and Yuuri couldn’t help but feel his heart tighten in exhilaration at the light-heartedness of it all.

“Are you having fun yet?” Phichit asked, pulling one of his arms towards himself as he turned, effectively dragging Yuuri into a fast spin, a giggle escaping his lips as the air whipped through his hair.

“Lots!” He assured him cheerfully, eliciting a preen from Phichit as he sped up their pace and let go of Yuuri’s hands. He cheered as Yuuri twirled several times until he came to a stop, holding his arms out dramatically and bowing as Phichit applauded and the two of them broke into fits of giggles, high on their happiness.

Unfortunately, like all good things, it had to come to an end, and before they knew it, their time was up and they reluctantly exited the ice, plopping themselves on the closest bench and changing back into their regular shoes. Although they had to leave the rink to make room for the hockey team’s practice session, their good moods remained with them as they exited the building, and Phichit pulled his phone from his pocket and held it up in front of them.

“Smile, Yuuri!”

Upon seeing Phichit’s thumbs up, Yuuri copied the gesture as the photo was captured with the click of the shutter, and Phichit began typing quickly, presumably already working on posting it online.

It wasn’t long before Yuuri’s own phone rang out with a notification and he unlocked it, double tapping the screen straight away with a fond smile on his lips.

 

Their footsteps fell in sync as they made their way back to Yuuri’s home, the promise of a pork cutlet bowl fresh on each of their minds, Yuuri’s mouth beginning to water at even just the thought. Although their silence was comfortable, Phichit finally broke it as his eyes lit up.

“Oh, I almost forgot,” he tutted, sliding his bag so that he had better access to it and unzipping it, rooting around it for a moment before retrieving a small parcel, “your present.”

He held it out to Yuuri while biting his lip, most likely to supress a smirk, which sent him the message that it was probably going to be another teasing jab at him. Yuuri was going to insist that Phichit didn’t need to take him skating and buy him a present, but knew that the sentiment would be rejected, and his friend would have insisted anyway, so he thanked him and took it with a shy smile.

The paper crinkled as Yuuri peeled it away, tearing it open to retrieve a small book with blank pages, at his confusion, Phichit took it from him and flipped it over, muttering that he was holding it the wrong way around. At seeing the front, Yuuri hung his head back and let out a small groan, but was betrayed by the smile that ghosted his lips.

“An autograph book? Really?” He whined, narrowing his eyes at Phichit, who looked delighted with himself and only nodded enthusiastically, showing no signs of remorse.

“Of course! Also, look at the first page.” He smirked, and already Yuuri knew that he probably didn’t want to, that this was only going to add fuel to the fire of Phichit’s teasing, but he did it nonetheless.

The item almost fell out as he opened the cover, and he was quick to catch it before the wind did, the thin sheet of paper was facing the wrong way, however, and as he turned it over, he shook his head with an exasperated smile at his friend, “I can’t believe you.”

“I figured you had enough posters, and you can’t exactly bring those along to the competition to get Viktor to sign, so now you have one of his photographs for him to sign instead.” Phichit explained, as though it was something that Yuuri would ever actually have considered, before a thought seemed to flash before him and he added, “It’s official, don’t worry.”

“I wasn’t worried about that.” Yuuri sighed, staring at the photo in his hands, one that had clearly been taken by a professional photographer at a staged photoshoot. It was a profile shot of Viktor standing on the ice and leaning against the barrier, his hair plaited over his shoulder as he smiled at the camera with an arm raised in greeting. It was a lovely photo, flattering in the way that all photos of Viktor seemed to be, the sight of it causing Yuuri’s breath to catch in his throat.

“Okay, so now that you have a photo for Viktor to sign, you have to talk to him at the next competition. Sorry, but I don’t make the rules.” Phichit shrugged, looking apologetic as he held his hands out in front of him, his palms raised to the sky.

“There is no way I’m asking him to sign a photograph of himself.” Yuuri said, shaking his head and dismissing the possibility, hearing Phichit gasp beside him in offense, “That’s embarrassing, and if he signed it and didn’t know who I was, that would be even more embarrassing.”

Yuuri cringed at the thought of Viktor dismissing him as just another fan, and not someone who was worthy enough to be his competitor – although Yuuri still wasn’t entirely sure how he’d managed to secure a spot in the competition himself.

“What about the book?” Phichit asked seriously, only breaking his façade and letting a smile break out on his face when Yuuri only shot him an unamused look in lieu of an answer, “Okay, okay. But one way or another, you’re going to talk to him.”

Yuuri was unsure whether that was Phichit implying that he would make sure Yuuri talked to Viktor, or whether he was just being realistic, and it was a given that their paths would cross at some point. Whichever one it was, Yuuri decided he would cross that bridge when he got to it.

“Hey,” Phichit said softly, all teasing gone from his features as he regarded Yuuri, “I know I joke about it a lot, but are you okay? With meeting Viktor, I mean.”

“What?” Yuuri asked, turning to face him with knitted eyebrows, “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“You know, the whole ‘don’t meet your idols’ thing? I don’t want you to expect him to be this perfect angel who can do no harm, because he might, you know? Like, he’s only human and I don’t want you to get hurt if he says something flippant, or accidentally – or god forbid, purposefully – hurts your feelings.”

Phichit was watching Yuuri as he chewed on his lip in thought, a hint of concern and worry dusted on his features, as though he was frightened he was going to upset him, or that he’d taken the teasing too far.

“I’m okay.” Yuuri reassured him, nodding to reinforce the words as he smiled, “It’ll be fine. Viktor seems nice, and I don’t think he would ever be malicious just for the sake of it.

“Anyway, Chris said he was lovely, so we have at least one person’s reliable opinion. You even said he seems like a nice guy based on what he told us in Paris. Besides, if Viktor doesn’t turn out to be like I thought he was, I’ll get over him and you can finally stop torturing me about it. So really it’s a win for me whichever way it goes.”

Phichit seemed to consider this for a moment, before nodding in agreement and letting out a deep exhale, offering Yuuri his brightest smile yet, “Okay, good. I can’t wait for you to meet him.”

“Me neither.”

“But hey,” Phichit began, adding something as an afterthought, “I’ll tell you what. If Viktor is mean, or hurts you in any way, I’ll take you out for ice cream, okay?”

“Isn’t it going to be a little cold for ice cream?” Yuuri questioned, chuckling softly at the offer.

“It’s never too cold for ice cream.” Phichit scoffed, glancing at Yuuri with exaggerated disgust and Yuuri only allowed a laugh to bubble up from his throat and nod in agreement, accepting that if he was upset, he’d probably take up the offer of an ice cream with no questions asked.

A memory resurfaced as they spoke of the dessert, a fondness manifesting inside Yuuri as he recalled the bet he’d made with Niki in the previous weeks. Phichit seemed to notice given by the way he raised an eyebrow in question and his eyes glistened with curiosity.

“What are you smiling at?” He asked, trying to act as though he was less interested than he really was.

“It’s nothing.” He buried the thought with a wave of his hand, despite already knowing that he wouldn’t hear the end of it. He may as well have just told him then and had it over with, and when Phichit sighed, pushing out his lower lip, Yuuri was already getting ready to share.

“Come on, just tell me.” Phichit whined, wrapping a hand around Yuuri’s arm as they walked, shaking him gently, earning an eye roll and a soft chuckle from Yuuri as he caved and explained the bet he’d made.

Phichit listened intently, and by the time Yuuri had finished his recount, he noticed Phichit was biting his lip to hold back a smile, the promise of a teasing remark on the tip of his tongue. Yuuri braced himself for it, already prepared to playfully shove him back or groan in annoyance, but to his surprise, he said nothing.

When he noticed Yuuri staring at him confusedly, his eyebrows drawn together, and trepidation laced into his features, Phichit only shrugged nonchalantly, narrowing his eyes in his own confusion.

“What?”

“Nothing, I just expected you to have something witty to say.” Yuuri explained, although he still felt a wash of relief that he didn’t have to supress a blush for once, or deny his infatuation with the Russian skater.

“I think you’ve had enough of that for today,” Phichit smiled, nodding to the bag over Yuuri’s shoulder which now held the photograph of Viktor, and Yuuri couldn’t help but agree.


 

As the days passed, and November bled into early December, the Cup of Russia approached rapidly, and with it, the anxiety in the pit of Yuuri’s stomach only continued to grow. What had always been a constant presence was now more so than ever, tendrils of fear growing upwards and feeling their way through Yuuri’s bloodstream, enveloping his chest and squeezing uncomfortably; it was an itch he couldn’t scratch, an ache he couldn’t subdue.

When it got to the night before he was due to catch his flight to Russia, Yuuri found himself unable to sleep, his tossing and turning offering little relief to the twinge of dread that had made its home in his bones.

With Phichit sleeping soundly across from him, Yuuri was reluctant to wake him, and although he knew that he wouldn’t mind - that if he knew Yuuri was anxious and worried, he’d be there for him in a heartbeat - Yuuri couldn’t bring himself to impose upon his best friend. After all, this was his own problem, he’d dealt with it alone before, and this would be far from the last time he had to.

Instead, he resorted to staring at the clock on his wall, the faint outline of it barely luminated by the soft glow of streetlights outside as he listened to each tick as the seconds passed by. The consistency of it was soothing and he felt himself relaxing slightly, sighing as he buried his head deeper into the pillow.

Unfortunately, the restlessness still remained, and Yuuri pushed himself upwards and sat with his back against his headboard; the sheets spilled over his thighs and pooled around him, exposing him to the chill of his room as a small shiver washed over him.

Running a hand through his dishevelled hair, he winced as he noticed the numbers displayed on the digital clock sitting on the table beside his bed. The numbers glowed brightly, taunting him as they proudly displayed their late hour that Yuuri should not have been awake to see.

Not feeling as though he’d be able to sleep any time soon, Yuuri decided to reach out to the other person in his life he could rely on, the one whose sleep he wouldn’t disturb by talking to. Having used the app so many times in the past few months, Yuuri’s fingers navigated themselves through his phone, his mind barely processing the actions until the messages were sat in front of him and he had to actually think of something to say.


Although it hadn’t done much to aid his sleep, or provide him with any of the rest he so desperately needed, speaking to Niki had at least helped to dampen the flames of anxiety that were trying to erupt within him. It had offered him a temporary safety blanket from the dangers that lurked just around the corner, and with a smile tugging at his lips, Yuuri let his eyes flutter closed and waited for the morning to arrive.


 Russia was cold.

That was Yuuri’s first and only thought as he stepped off the plane, the icy winds instantly gnawing at his exposed hands, and he quickly fished into his pockets to retrieve his new gloves, feeling the small relief they brought in the bite of early December.

Having managed to sleep a little on the plane, Yuuri no longer felt the heavy weight of fatigue sitting on his shoulders like lead, and the nip of the cold jolting through him and made him more alert, his teeth chattering as he wrapped his coat tightly around himself.

As expected, Phichit was by his side with wide eyes, taking in anything and everything as they walked, even the mundanity of the airport needed to be documented with subtle photographs and whispers to Yuuri as he pointed something out and tugged on his arm excitedly. As soon as they had loaded their luggage into the boot of a taxi and climbed inside, Phichit was staring out of the window, his phone snapping photos as they drove through the streets of Moscow.

There was a layer of snow dusted upon every surface Yuuri could see, the white blanket covering the city in the gentle glow of the early morning. Footprints and tyre tracks stained the immaculateness of it, a whisper of those who were already awake and beginning their day, only a small sample of the activity that would only continue to grow as the hours crept on.

In just over twenty-four hours, Yuuri would be competing in this unfamiliar city, in a rink that Viktor had skated on before – the same one that Viktor would be skating on again, the one that Yuuri would be sharing with him.

It still seemed surreal.

The reality of meeting Viktor was becoming more vivid as the competition drew closer, and Yuuri’s heart both fluttered and sunk at the thought. The largest part of him was excited to speak to him after so long of watching him on his screen, to be recognised as a skater worth his time - but also worried that it wouldn’t end well, and he’d leave Russia embarrassed and with one less inspiration in his life.

The weight of a hand slipping into his pulled Yuuri from his thoughts, and he tore his attention from the snow-covered streets to meet Phichit’s reassuring gaze, a small squeeze of his hand helping to ground him and remind him that it would be fine – and even if it wasn’t, Phichit would still be there.

It wasn’t long until their taxi slowed to a stop and they were met by the towering building that would be their home for the next few days. The hotel seemed quite modern, the lobby clearly recently refurbished from the new furniture and polished surfaces. The high ceiling, however, was a tell-tale sign of the building itself being older than it appeared, one that had been built many years ago, and the authenticity of it had a smile tugging at Yuuri’s lips.

Before he knew it, the three of them had checked in, and Phichit was navigating them through the long corridors and to their room, departing from the company of Yuuri’s coach on their way. As soon as his suitcase was tucked into the corner of the room, and Yuuri’s shoes were sitting by the door, he allowed himself to collapse onto the bed with a deep sigh.

Despite catching some sleep on the plane, the jet lag of being six hours behind after a nine-hour flight had taken its toll, and Yuuri just wanted to bury his head in the pillow and sleep for hours. Phichit, however, being the voice of reason as usual, didn’t allow that to happen and coaxed Yuuri’s head from the makeshift cave he’d made between his arms.

“Yuuri, come on. You know you have to stay awake. If you sleep now, you won’t be able to sleep later and then you’ll be tired for the competition.” Phichit explained softly, his voice gentle and Yuuri could tell from the tiredness laced into his tone that that he was just as exhausted as he felt.

Although he knew Phichit was right, Yuuri only whined in response and waved a hand to try and dismiss the idea. Hearing a sigh from beside him, Yuuri couldn’t say he was surprised when he felt the bed shift and listened to footsteps retreating.

He felt a false sense of relief when he thought that Phichit had decided to leave him to it, but of course his best friend was planning on doing no such thing, and the room suddenly became much brighter, the luminescent bulb throwing out intense whites and he was quick to squeeze his eyes tightly closed, trying to hide from it.

Yuuri.” Phichit tutted, placing a hand on Yuuri’s shoulder and gently shaking him.

“Fine.” He relented, pushing himself up so he was sitting upright, his legs hanging off the bed as he ran a hand through his newly tangled hair, successfully managing to comb out some of the largest knots.

After lots of convincing, and the bribery of having the softest pillow to sleep with later that night, Yuuri had agreed to leave the hotel with Phichit to take a walk around the area to explore. There wasn’t much to see nearby, but an opportunity to stretch his legs and get some fresh air seemed appealing to Yuuri – at least when the alternative was to sit on his bed fighting his eyelids from closing and demanding sleep.

Pulling the blinds apart, Yuuri was met by the sight of a fresh downpour of snow, falling thick and heavy on top of the layer already coating the sidewalks and roads. A frown had found its way onto his lips as he stared up to the clouds, the sky was completely white, no hint of the snow stopping any time soon.

When he turned to look over his shoulder and gage Phichit’s reaction, he was met by a large grin and glistening eyes. He had thought that their plans may have been cancelled, that upon seeing the weather they’d decide to stay in and keep warm, but the joy radiating from his best friend told a different story all together.

“You look awfully excited.” Yuuri commented, a smile tugging at his lips as he watched Phichit’s gaze glued to the window, his eyes darting up and down rapidly along with the falling snowflakes.

“Obviously, it’s snowing Yuuri. Snowing!” He giggled, only pressing his face closer to the window to get a better look as Yuuri stood behind him, looking on fondly.

“Did you not see any when you lived in Thailand?” He questioned, unsure.

“I wish. Where I lived, the most we got was some frost.” He sighed wistfully as he turned to Yuuri, but his eyes lit up again as he moved to rest his elbow on the windowsill and his chin on his palm.

“Oh, well you have Japan’s snow to look forward to.” Yuuri reminded him, thinking back on the many hours he’d spent helping his family shovel the white powder away from the entrance of their inns at the beginning of each year. It was hard work, but the sight of it was always so lovely he couldn’t bring himself to mind.

“You’re right.” Phichit gasped, biting his lip to supress a grin as he finally left the window and headed to the door of their room, quickly beginning to slip into his shoes, “Come on Yuuri!”

“I’m coming, I’m coming.” Yuuri chuckled, hastily lacing up the thick boots he’d brought with him before adding extra layers, making sure to pull a soft beanie over his hair with his glove-covered hands.

He barely had time to slip his phone and wallet into his pocket before his hands were grabbed, and he found himself being dragged from their room and to the entrance of the hotel.

Watching Phichit experience snow for the first time was something Yuuri would hold close to his heart for the rest of his life.

As the snowflakes drifted towards them, Phichit held out his arms and turned his head up to the sky, closing his eyes as the softest smile Yuuri had ever seen was painted on his face. A giggle bubbled up from his friend’s throat as the feeling began to tickle his face, a sensation Yuuri was more than familiar with.

“Yuuri, it crunches!” Phichit exclaimed with a soft gasp, his attention now shifted to where his boots were rocking back and forwards, creating a crunching sound each time he moved.

“Yeah, it does.” Yuuri agreed with a nod, no longer able to supress a smile as he copied Phichit’s movements, ignoring the cold that was biting at his face in favour of indulging him in discovering the wonders of it.

Those who walked by mumbled in Russian, looking confused as to why they looked so happy when the weather was so miserable. Phichit paid them no mind, offering a large smile and a wave when they stared for too long, Yuuri swatting at him amusedly.

“I’m cold.” Phichit announced several minutes later with a frown, looking up at Yuuri who only laughed in response, shaking his head.

“Well yeah, snow is cold.” Yuuri explained, ignoring the way Phichit rolled his eyes at him, “Let’s keep walking, it’ll warm you up.”

“Good idea.” He agreed, looking from left to right trying to decide which way to go before shrugging and dragging Yuuri to the left.

Yuuri had to admit that the chill the snow brought had helped to wake him up considerably, his earlier exhaustion dissipating slightly, replaced by the joy that Phichit had brought through his excitement.

Their spontaneous exploration eventually led them to a park, long paths bordered by large areas which Yuuri assumed would have been grassy had it not been for the blanket of snow hiding them. Phichit made the most of the spaces which were free from any footprints or marks, only becoming soiled when he stepped onto them himself.

“Can we make snow wings?” He looked up at Yuuri expectantly, gesturing to the ground with a hand, his eyes shifting between the snow and him, apparently waiting for him to demonstrate.

“Snow wings?” Yuuri asked quizzically, his eyebrows drawing together and frowning when he saw Phichit’s expression fall.

“Yeah, you know, when you lay down and do the thing.” He explained not so elegantly, waving his arms around himself wildly until Yuuri caught on to what he meant.

Oh, you mean snow angels?” Yuuri asked, watching as Phichit seemed to think for a moment before nodding in confirmation.

“Yeah, snow angels! Can we?”

“Phichit, it’s freezing.” Yuuri sighed regretfully, it was one thing to go for a walk in the snow, but to fully lay down in it was another thing entirely - especially when it was probably going to find its way into his shoes and clothes if he did.

It only took a long look at the deflated expression Phichit was wearing, along with the pout on his friend’s lips for him to cave, jerking his head towards a large fresh patch of snow as Phichit followed him.

Slowly lowering himself to the floor, Yuuri felt his breath hitch involuntarily as the coldness began to seep through his jeans – although luckily not his coat and shirt. He focused on the fact that he would soon be back in his room, and after a warm shower and some fresh clothes, the feeling would only be a distant memory, one that would be overshadowed by the memory of Phichit’s delighted exclamations as he dragged his arms and legs through the snow, yelling about how cold he was, but how much fun he was having nonetheless.

“Will you take a photo? I want to remember this.” Phichit held his hand out to Yuuri from where he was laying, propped up on one elbow as he offered his phone.

Nodding, Yuuri took the device and pushed himself to his feet, shivering as he brushed off the loose snow covering his clothes before pulling off a glove with his teeth, snapping several photos and a short video, his heart bursting each time Phichit giggled from elation.

As Phichit joined Yuuri and got back onto his feet, he thanked him profoundly before his eyes scanned the mostly empty park, his features morphing into a frown as he turned to him.

“This park has a severe lack of snowmen.”

“I’m sure we can fix that.”


 By the time they decided to head back to the hotel, Yuuri was shivering so much that Phichit wrapped an arm around him and they huddled close, hoping to share their warmth as their breath came out in thick clouds of mist in front of them.

Apparently, however, Phichit was not done with his discovery of snow, and still had one more thing to check off his list. As soon as he broke apart from Yuuri just a few streets away from the hotel, and began to crouch down to collect snow, Yuuri knew what was about to happen, his eyes widening in anticipation.

He squeezed his eyes closed as he watched Phichit rise to his feet, compressing the powder into a tight ball between his gloved hands, a glimmer of mischief bright in his eyes. He flinched even before the snow made contact with him, the cold impact eliciting a wince as his teeth began to chatter.

Despite the chilly bite that came along with being hit by a snowball, Yuuri only brushed himself off as a laugh escaped his lips and he quickly began to build his own. If Phichit wanted to experience a snowball fight, then who was Yuuri to deprive him of one?

“I am so going to get you for that!” Yuuri yelled, breaking out into a run as Phichit began to back away from him and ran too, leading the way to their hotel. If he thought he’d be able to make it there before he was hit, he was severely mistaken, as Yuuri managed to hit him directly in the back with a small cheer at his successful aim.

Admittedly, throwing piles of freezing cold snow at each other through the streets of Moscow probably wasn’t the greatest idea they’d ever had – especially when they were already shivering, with noses and ears tinted red from the icy winds – but when Yuuri heard Phichit’s laughter, and saw the exuberance that radiated from him each time he dodged one of Yuuri’s throws, he found that he couldn’t bring himself to care.

That was, until he hit someone outside their hotel that was definitely not Phichit.

A loud gasp stopped Yuuri in his tracks, his heart stopping as the hooded figure froze in shock at the cold. As he began to turn around, Yuuri felt as though time had slowed down, each second lasting longer than the previous one, dread sitting heavily in the bottom of his stomach.

Although he couldn’t make out their face due to the large distance between them, Yuuri spotted wisps of blonde hair peeking from the boy’s hood and swallowed thickly.

Phichit stood beside Yuuri, squinting to try and make out the figure, his mouth falling open slightly as he recognised them, “Oh my God, is that…?”

“Yuri Plisetsky, yeah.” Yuuri winced, wringing his hands together nervously as the boy dropped the suitcase he’d been holding and pushed his hood away, the scowl on his face sending a wave of unease over Yuuri.

“Oh my god, I am so so sorry!” Yuuri apologised profusely as he walked over to him, holding his hands out in front of him, before gesturing to his friend, “I was trying to hit Phichit.”

Yuri offered him an appraising look, staring him up and down evaluatively for a moment as his arms folded across his chest. It seemed that he was not in a good mood, and Yuuri did not think that accidentally attacking Viktor’s younger brother was the best first impression he could’ve possibly given.

“Yakov!” Yuri shouted, turning his attention to the older man who was unloading luggage from the taxi beside them.

“Yura, the boy apologised to you, give him a break.” Yakov gave a long-suffering sigh, shaking his head as he pulled out the last suitcase and slammed the boot closed. His eyes widened as they met Yuuri’s, eyebrows raising in recognition.

“Katsuki Yuuri?” He questioned, hesitance in his tone and Yuuri nodded in confirmation, not missing the way Yuri stepped closer and narrowed his eyes confusedly.

“You look different.” Yuri said, his hostility fading away with each second, allowing Yuuri to relax slightly as he cleared his throat and met his gaze.

“Oh? I guess it’s probably the beanie and glasses.” He laughed awkwardly, tugging slightly on the edges of said beanie, his hair windswept from where it peeked out below the edges.

“Hmm.” Yuri nodded in consideration, his gaze flickering to where Phichit stood beside Yuuri, “So I’m guessing you’re Phichit?”

Yuuri wasn’t too sure who was more confused in that moment: Phichit, Yakov, or himself.

Yakov shot the young boy a look, his eyebrows furrowed as he turned his attention to Phichit, no sign of recognition in his eyes.

“Yeah, that’s me.” Phichit smiled cheerily, although he wore a similar expression, clearly puzzled at the fact that he’d been recognised – by Yuri Plisetsky of all people, “Sorry if this sounds rude, but how did you know?”

Yuri shrugged, “My brother.”

When no one made any indication of understanding what that was even supposed to mean, Yuri only sighed before beginning to explain.

“We watch all of the competitions together, so we’ve gotten to know a lot of faces.” He said with a wave of his hand, “I don’t blame him for knowing who Yuuri is, but I’m still not entirely sure how he knows that your name is Phichit. He probably read some article on twitter no doubt. But he talks so much while it’s on the TV, that I’ve picked up a lot of names, and yours was one of them.”

“Oh, that makes sense.” Phichit nodded, offering an understanding look, and Yuuri couldn’t help but agree. Phichit used social media a lot, frequently posting many photos of them together, so it wouldn’t exactly be hard for someone to put two and two together to include his name in their article.

The low growl of an engine grabbed Yuuri’s attention, and as he watched the taxi which had been carrying the Russians and their luggage pull away from the curb, it was only then that he wondered that if Viktor’s brother was here with his coach, then where was Viktor himself?

Looking around at the empty space, it seemed Phichit was thinking a similar thing as his eyebrows pulled together, a question spilling from his lips, “Speaking of Viktor, where is he?”

“You just missed him.” Yuri began, an irritated look dusting his features as he jerked his head towards the entrance of the hotel, “As soon as the taxi had pulled up he was straight out. He said he wanted to connect to the Wi-Fi as quickly as he could to message his friend - as though he was incapable of waiting five whole minutes.”

“Oh.” Phichit hummed, nodding in understanding, “Probably Chris.”

Yuri only shrugged, looking disinterested and Yakov took a step towards them, saying something to him in the unfamiliar language, before turning his attention back to Yuuri and Phichit, “We should probably get out of this cold, Yuri and I have to check in. It was nice to have the chance to speak to you before the competition, and I wish you all the best for tomorrow Katsuki.”

If Yuuri was expecting a smile from the Russian coach, it seemed highly unlikely that he was ever going to get one, and so he was quick to offer a small bow, “Thank you, Mr Feltsman, I’ll try my best. I wish Viktor the same– although I doubt he’ll need it.”

Yuuri cringed a himself and winced slightly, wondering why he couldn’t have just left it as a good luck message.

Yakov scoffed at that, shaking his head and exchanging a look with Yuri, the young boy looking as though he was trying to supress a smirk – a sign of an inside joke that Yuuri clearly wasn’t a part of. With a wave of his hand, Yakov dismissed himself into the building while Yuri lingered behind, looking reluctant to following him. Yuuri couldn’t blame him, it was probably more interesting for him to talk with teenage boys than his brother’s coach.

“Viktor needs all the luck he can get, considering lately he’s been spending more time playing on his phone on the ice than actually skating on it.”  Yuri remarked, rolling his eyes and scuffing his shoes in the snow below him, scrunching his nose up in disgust. “Although, I guess playing maybe isn’t the right word; he’s always texting his boyfriend.”

Oh.

Oh.

Yuuri had to hide the fact that his heart felt like someone was squeezing it, deflating it as each second passed. The new information sitting heavy in his stomach as he fought the frown threatening to tug at his lips.

It was something Yuuri should have seen coming, really. Viktor was one of the most beautiful people he’d had ever seen, so it was no surprise that someone else also seemed to think that.

He’d been holding onto a childish fantasy for far too long. By no means had Yuuri ever actually expected for anything to happen between him and Viktor, but that didn’t mean the knowledge that Viktor already had someone to call his own hurt any less. He understood it would happen eventually, that Viktor was maturing and would want to be in a relationship sooner or later, but Yuuri found that sooner was just way too soon for his heart to handle.

He’d allowed himself to get his hopes up in Paris, when Chris wore a smile and spouted flowery stories of how lovely Viktor was, how he was still waiting for the right person to come along – something uncomfortable twisted in Yuuri then. If this was the only person Viktor was willing to share a piece of himself with, the first to call his boyfriend, then surely that meant he must be special.

But if he was supposedly one of his best friends, why hadn’t Chris said anything?

Of course there were many possibilities, the first being that maybe Viktor hadn’t told him. If Viktor’s boyfriend was that special to him, perhaps he didn’t want to jinx it, didn’t want to tell everyone about his relationship in case it fell apart, and he had to deal with the pity of others on top of his own heartbreak.

Out of the corner of his eye, Yuuri saw Phichit staring at him, most likely a troubled expression on his face as he waited for some sort of reaction, but Yuuri only smiled, even allowing a small chuckle to bubble from his throat as a smirk ghosted Yuri’s – clearly enjoying that he had someone to whine about his older brother to.

“Oh?” Phichit began, his tone teasing and light, although Yuuri could hear the hidden tension beneath it for his sake. He knew that he was trying to find out the details Yuuri was too afraid to ask, but by masking it as harmless curiosity for gossip that Yuri was more likely to share, “I didn’t know Viktor had a boyfriend. Who is it?”

With a playful jab to his side, Yuri stared at Phichit quizzically and back to Yuuri before shrugging, “How am I supposed to know?”

“Haven’t you met him?” Phichit asked confusedly, and Yuuri shared the sentiment.

“No.” Yuri said flatly, “Why would I want to see them being gross in person, when I can already hear him being gross on his own when he starts laughing to himself, and holding his phone like it’s the greatest gift on the Earth?”

“How do you know he has a boyfriend if you’ve never met him?” Phichit pressed, scepticism laced into his tone as he gave Yuri a look of consideration, “What’s his name?”

“I don’t know he has a boyfriend, but it’s pretty obvious.” Yuri explained, not expanding and when Phichit only raised an eyebrow, he sighed and held his hands out, beginning to list things off on his fingers.

“Okay, so first of all, they text constantly. Viktor’ll think he’s being sneaky when he constantly checks his phone in practice, but Yakov always sees – always – and it’s only been getting worse. A few weeks ago, he even threatened to confiscate it when it really got on his nerves.

“Don’t even get me started on the amount of times I’ll be trying to sleep and I can hear him laughing to himself from the other side of the room. It’s bad enough having to share a room in the first place, but when he decides to stay up late it’s even worse because the light from his screen is always too bright.”

Yuri gave a long-suffering sigh as he ran a hand down his face, and Yuuri felt a twinge of sympathy for him, the ache in his chest only deepening with each reason that was listed. He hadn’t realised until then how badly he wanted to be the one that Viktor stayed up late to talk to, the one that he wanted to talk to even while he was busy and his mind should have been somewhere else.

“And another thing!” Yuri gasped, his eyebrows drawing together as a new thought upreared its head, “He almost made us late for school the other day! He was so busy texting that he didn’t realise the time, and I found him on the floor taking photos of Makkachin when he should have been getting dressed! She’s a cute dog, but that isn’t going to get me out of detention for not being on time.

“Oh my god,” Yuri mumbled, shaking his head before throwing it back exasperatedly, “and then there was that time where they must have fell out or something, because Viktor spent the entire day moping and checking his phone every two minutes. Not even skating could get him out of his funk. He still looked sad, he was just sad while in ice skates. I mean, I love him, but he was acting as though the world was ending – he was almost as bad as Georgi.”

Yuri laughed to himself a little at his own comment, and Yuuri offered a weak smile. He was familiar with the Russian skater, but not enough to know about his apparent dramatic tendencies. Yuri seemed more relaxed then, his shoulders slumped after seemingly getting everything off his chest, and suddenly his eyes widened as he tucked his fringe behind his ear sheepishly.

“I must sound like the worst brother in the world, all I’ve done is moan about him.” He frowned, worrying his lower lip between his teeth, “He’s not all bad, honestly. Sometimes if I’m feeling upset about something, and he doesn’t know what to do he’ll make me pirozhki.

“And even though he claims he’s not a cat person, he still loves Potya – my cat- all the same, and almost gives her as much love and attention as Makkachin.” A fond smile had found its way onto Yuri’s lips then, his eyes holding a new warmth that hadn’t been there before.

“He sounds lovely.” Yuuri said softly, trying to supress the nagging feeling of disappointment that was tugging at his chest, and Yuri gave him a kind smile in return as he shifted between his feet almost shyly.

“I should probably go find the room before Viktor looks up from his phone and actually realises I’m not there, and ends up calling the police or something.” He joked, and the easiness of it washed over Yuuri calmingly as he laughed along, noticing the way Yuri’s eyes glistened momentarily at the approval and he seemed to bite back a smile.

On the TV, Yuri had always seemed like an angry child, full of fickle moods which were more typically bad than good, but as he made playful remarks around two skaters he’d only just met, Yuuri saw him as just a young boy who wanted someone to talk to, and not just because he was Viktor Nikiforov’s brother.

“Good idea,” Yuuri nodded, his smile widening as he nodded towards the door, before swallowing and clearing his throat as the three of them headed inside, “I hope it all works out for Viktor, he deserves someone nice.”

“Yeah, me too.” Yuri said fondly, his gaze thoughtful as they stepped into one of the empty lifts, the doors closing only a moment later, “I’ll let him know you said that.”

“Ah, no that’s oka-“

“-I’m going to,” Yuri declared, not unkindly, “It’ll be nice for him to know one of his competitors wishes him the best, and isn’t secretly hoping he’ll trip up.”

“How do you know I’m not hoping he’ll trip up?” Yuuri questioned, his tone amused and teasing as Yuri only rolled his eyes and shot him a look.

“Because I watch all your routines, and it’s obvious you look up to him. There’s no way you’d want to see him crash and burn on the ice.” He remarked, waving his hand dismissively at the thought and Yuuri felt his eyebrows furrow at the comment.

“You watch all my routines?” He asked, puzzled at the thought; but the lift had reached its stop and as the doors opened Yuri quickly stepped out, a shy smile on his lips as he waved over his shoulder.

“See you at the competition.”

If Yuuri thought that Phichit was not going to say anything about the fact that Yuri Plisetsky of all people had just admitted to watching all of his skating programs, it seemed he was sorely mistaken, when Phichit turned to him with a delighted grin plastered on his face.

“Oh my god,” he began, looking far too pleased about it, “I can’t believe this, you didn’t tell me you had a fan.”

Don’t.” Yuuri warned, shooting him a look, “Just because he’s seen some of my programs, it doesn’t mean he’s a fan - he probably just meant he saw them when he was watching the competitions, and I happened to be skating.”

“Did you miss the part when he said ‘all’? Because I’m not even trying to make you blow your own trumpet, but I think the kid looks up to you.” Phichit smiled, nudging him gently as Yuuri only shook his head and laughed disbelievingly.

“You’re kidding, right?” He asked incredulously, “There is no way. He doesn’t need anyone else to look up to when he has Viktor as a brother.”

“Not everyone wants to be like Viktor.” Phichit reminded Yuuri, “Sure, he’s arguably the best figure skater out there, but skill isn’t the only important thing. I know I’ve told you this time and time again, but your presentation is just as good – if not better – and it’s really not that hard to see why Yuri would want to be able to move like you do on the ice.”

“I know, I know, thank you.” Yuuri blushed, still finding himself slightly uncomfortable at the compliments, “I just can’t wrap my head around it.”

“Well try to, because I bet Yuri isn’t the only one who admires your skating.”

As soon as they returned to their hotel room and the door was closed behind them, Yuuri was pulling off his wet clothes as his body convulsed with small shivers. Having been distracted by various conversations, the coldness that was hugging to him hadn’t been as prominent, but with the stark change in temperature, he was now aware of the bite in his bones more than ever, and he wrapped one of the complementary robes around himself, noticing that Phichit had done the same.

Before Phichit even had time to argue, Yuuri had called out that he was showering first and hastily headed into the bathroom with fresh clothes, locking the door behind him with a smooth swipe of the latch.

Despite hotel showers being a puzzle in themselves when it came to figuring out how they worked, somehow Yuuri managed to get the water flowing quickly, and less than a minute later he was allowing the warm jets to run over his icy skin, exhaling contentedly at the feeling.

As Yuuri had hoped, it didn’t take long for his body to heat up again, and he ran his hands through his newly wet hair, washing out the melted snow with the small bottle of shampoo the hotel had provided.

The bubbles flowed down his skin and onto the basin of the bath, a small whirlpool forming by the drain which he watched for a moment, silently allowing himself to bask in the warmth surrounding him. He didn’t think he’d ever be able to get used to Russia’s cold, the gnawing of its frosty winds still too fresh in his mind.

Although he would have loved more than anything to stay under the heat of the shower for much longer, the rapid knocking on the bathroom door reminded him that there was a very cold Phichit in their room waiting for his turn. With a reluctant sigh, he cut off the stream and wrapped a towel around his shoulders as soon as his feet were on the mat.

Hurriedly drying himself, Yuuri pulled on his oversized shirt and sweatpants, tying the drawstring above his hips before exiting the bathroom. He was barely out of it when Phichit pushed past him and closed the door, the sound of the shower coming to life almost instantly, followed by a sigh of relief and Phichit’s cheery singing.

Laughing amusedly to himself, Yuuri chuckled and began to ruffle his hair with the towel, hoping to dry it as much as he could to avoid the chill it would surely bring. Upon deciding it was dry enough, he draped it over the back of one of the chairs while he couldn’t get to a drying rack, and flopped face forward on to his bed with a sigh.

Retrieving his phone from the covers he’d thrown it on when entering the room earlier, Yuuri was surprised to see that he had a message from Niki waiting for him, sent less than an hour ago. He couldn’t help the smile that instantly tugged at his lips, and with Phichit in the bathroom he didn’t need to even try and hide it, so he propped himself up on one elbow as he unlocked the screen and began typing a response.

 

Chapter Text

When Yuuri awoke the following morning, he wasn’t surprised to find that he had the arms and legs of his best friend wrapped around him. It was a position he was more than familiar with by now, and he couldn’t find it in himself to be annoyed at the lack of space they had in the single bed.

One of the benefits of having an affectionate best friend, was that he also got his body heat; and when it came to being hot, Phichit was like a human radiator. The warmth spilled between them and lingered under the covers, Yuuri frowning at the realisation that he’d have to leave it soon to get ready for the competition.

A long yawn punctuated the silence of the room in the early hours, and after some shuffling an rearranging of limbs, Yuuri was met by a very sleepy looking Phichit.

“G’mornin.” He smiled, brushing the loose hairs away from his eyes and supporting himself on one of his elbows, his eyes fluttering closed a moment later as the tiredness seemed to pull at him.

It was a feeling Yuuri shared wholeheartedly, wanting to catch just a few more hours of sleep but knowing it wasn’t even an option- not unless he wanted to be late for the competition.

“Happy competition day.” Phichit mumbled, his voice laced with fatigue as his eyes remained closed, and Yuuri found himself smiling at the sight, “Gonna be great, ‘m so proud of you.”

When Phichit began to pat Yuuri’s head softly, mumbling incoherently, Yuuri had to bite his lip to supress the laughter that was threatening to ripple through him. Amused at seeing Phichit so sleepy, rather than far too chipper than is normal for a morning.

Deciding to let him sleep in, Yuuri untangled himself and headed to the bathroom to shower, emerging a few moments later to see Phichit snoozing on the bed, his arms coiled tightly around one of the pillows in Yuuri’s absence.

It was endearing to watch, and although he had the urge to pull the covers away, and subject his best friend to the same treatment he’d been inflicted to so many times before, he decided against it and turned his attention to the clock. Phichit didn’t need to be up just yet anyway, Yuuri decided, noting that he could probably have at least another half hours rest before they had any actual risk of being late.

Checking his phone, Yuuri was met by a new message sent not too long ago, and although they’d spoken the previous night, he was still excited to see the greeting from Niki and opened it with a smile tugging at his lips.

 


 

If Yuuri thought that he was at all prepared for the Cup of Russia, upon actually arriving at the venue, he found that he was severely mistaken.

All it took was a single lingering look at the looming stadium in front of him, and nervousness began to seep into his bones, a constant trickle that seemed to only be spreading as each second passed.

The frigid winds of the Russian winter did nothing to help, their cold grasp sending chills through Yuuri, his hands shaking from the freezing temperatures - although that wasn’t the only reason for them doing so.

The shaking subdued slightly when he felt the warmth of Phichit’s palm pressing against his own, their fingers interlinking as his friend’s thumb soothingly rubbed circles over his knuckles. It didn’t cause his anxiety to dissipate as much as he’d hoped, but it did seem to help ground him, the gesture reminding him that he was not here alone.

As they stepped inside the towering building, the buzz of chatter from those inside greeted them immediately; the familiarity of it helped slightly when he thought back on the stadium in Paris.

However, unlike Paris, Chris wasn’t there to greet him. Instead, Yuuri was surrounded by a sea of unfamiliar faces, athletes he’d never seen before and their coaches who were even more unrecognisable.

One person who would be there though, - who there was absolutely no doubt as to whether Yuuri would recognise him - was Viktor. Yuuri found his eyes scanning the room rapidly, hoping to catch a glance of silver hair, still not quite believing that he had the opportunity to do so.

Unfortunately, his efforts turned out to be fruitless, and before he had the chance give the room another sweep, Phichit was pulling him towards the sign-in area and he was being handed a lanyard with his details on for the event.

“Looking for Viktor?” Phichit whispered as they made their way to the main area. The smirk on his face wasn’t even trying to be hidden, and Yuuri only nodded and was grateful no one close enough seemed to speak Japanese.

“Have you seen him?” Phichit asked, his eyes lighting up in excitement as they whipped across the room, quickly darting from left to right.

“Not yet.” Yuuri shook his head with a sigh, pulling the sleeves of his jacket over his hands and twisting them nervously. If he was being honest with himself, a part of him was glad that he hadn’t spotted Viktor just yet, still not entirely sure if he was ready to meet him.

“Oh, damn.” Phichit tutted, his disappointment evidence in the furrow of his brows, “But it’s okay, we’ll see him when he skates for sure! Are you excited?”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for anything in my life.” Yuuri smiled, starting to feel giddy at the thought of actually watching one of his routines in person – not only that, but to have Viktor watch one of his own in return.

A shudder ran through him when he thought messing up in front of him, especially after waiting for long for the opportunity to prove himself. He was quick to shake his head and try to dismiss it; it wasn’t something he wanted to dwell on, and the more he considered it as a possibility, the more chance it had at becoming a reality.

The routine of attending a competition was something Yuuri was becoming more familiar with each one he attended, and he was already looking for a quiet space to warm up and try to ease his nerves before his coach had even suggested it.

“How’re you feeling?” Yosano asked, Yuuri feeling his eyes trained on him as he began to stretch his muscles, closing his eyes as he took deep breaths.

“Right now, I’m okay.” Yuuri replied, the beating of his heart regular, and his breaths coming out even as he folded his body over and touched his toes, smiling at the pull of his muscles. He didn’t doubt that it probably wouldn’t stay that way as it got closer to him performing, but he felt reasonably calm in the quiet of the room with his coach and best friend beside him.

“That’s good.” He nodded, and Yuuri could hear the slight relief in his tone. His coach was the best he could’ve asked for, and he didn’t blame him for not always knowing what Yuuri needed when his anxiety threatened to swallow him whole. Luckily, Phichit was better at identifying what to do, and as long as he had his best friend, he knew everything would fine.

“How long do we have before the warm up skate?” Phichit questioned, turning to face Yosano and most likely take the attention from Yuuri.

“Hmm.” He looked thoughtful for a moment, pulling up the sleeve of his coat to get a glance at his watch, “Just over half an hour or so.”

Yuuri and Phichit both made a noise of acknowledgement, the room falling into a comfortable silence as he continued to stretch, Phichit turning his attention to his phone, and Yosano doing the same not too long after.

With a shrug, Yuuri pulled his phone and headphones from his jacket and unravelled the cord, placing the buds in his ears as he scrolled through his playlist for a perfect song to help him get into the right zone.

Happy with the one he’d selected, Yuuri allowed himself to become immersed in it, let the lyrics wash over him and their positive energy to seep into his bloodstream.

It never ceased to amaze Yuuri just how easy it was for a song to influence his mood, for the melody to fill him with more motivation than he even knew he had. By the time his sixth song had come to an end, Phichit was tugging on the wire of his headphones and jerking his head towards the door.

“We have to go now.” He said once Yuuri had removed his headphones, turning on his heel and making his way towards the door, Yuuri following closely behind as he slipped his phone away into his jacket.

The stadium was filled with excited voices as they entered the rink side. The audience clearly eager for the event to begin – and to see their national treasure to perform undoubtedly, something Yuuri could empathise with wholeheartedly.

Sweeping his eyes around the empty space, Yuuri felt himself freeze when his eyes locked onto Viktor.

He was standing beside his coach and younger brother, a water bottle in one hand as the other rested on his hip. Whatever Mr Feltsman had been saying to him, Viktor didn’t seem to be paying much attention, occasional nods given as his gaze was fixed on Yuri’s phone, the two of them laughing at something displayed on it.

“Yuuri, what are you…” Phichit’s question died on his tongue as he followed Yuuri’s gaze, “Oh.”

“Yeah.” Yuuri swallowed, rubbing his hands against the material of his trousers as he felt them begin to grow clammy, turning to Phichit with wide eyes, “Is this real?”

“You bet.” Phichit grinned, nudging Yuuri’s ribs with an elbow as he ushered him towards the ice, “Now, it’s time to warm up and show that pretty boy what you’re made of.”

Rolling his eyes, a smile ghosted Yuuri’s lips as he found a seat and began to lace up his skates, Phichit by his side the entire time chatting about easy topics to distract him.

He tried not to spare Viktor too many glances, knowing it would only rile up his nerves, but when he was so close after waiting so long, Yuuri couldn’t help it. Luckily, he was facing the other way, so he didn’t notice how often Yuuri would turn his attention to him, a longing expression painted on his features.

When he felt the warm presence of his best friend beside him, Yuuri was reminded that if there was one thing he was certain of, it was that there was no way Phichit would let him leave Russia without having spoken to Viktor.

 


 

When the skater performing before Viktor took to the ice, Yuuri pulled out his phone and was quick to pull up his conversation with Niki, wanting to check if he was watching too – although if he was there, there was no way he wouldn’t be.

 

 

When several minutes had passed and there was no reply, Yuuri frowned and slipped his phone back into his pocket, sinking into his seat slightly.

Phichit offered him a concerned look, but Yuuri only smiled and shook his head, trying to dismiss any worries his friend had. Not wanting to dwell on it too much, Yuuri allowed his attention to flicker across the stadium, eventually finding its way to Viktor.

In the back of his mind, Yuuri knew that he should probably be watching the skater who was currently on the ice, taking notice of his movements and gaging the competition. However, when Viktor was so close, he found it almost impossible to tear his eyes away.

Still with Mr Feltsman and his brother, Viktor sat with his phone in one hand, inconspicuously trying to check it as he kept a watchful eye on his coach. From where he was sitting, Yuuri could make out the hints of a smile playing on Viktor’s lips, quickly hidden by the sleeve of his team jacket as he rested his chin against his palm.

The gesture tugged at something in Yuuri’s chest. He couldn’t deny how much he wished that it was him who made Viktor smile like that, who had him grinning in public from a simple text message.

Yuuri pushed the feeling down. There was no use in him feeling that way, especially after his conversation with Yuri the previous day, when it was made clear that Viktor already had someone in his life he was apparently smitten over.

Then again, Niki had said not to believe everything. That the fact Yuri couldn’t offer a name, or even confirmation that Viktor was dating someone was something to be wary of. Perhaps he was just talking to Chris, or another friend?

Whoever he was talking to, it wasn’t any of Yuuri’s business.

Viktor seemed to be indecisive in what he was typing, a thoughtful look dusting his features as he stared up at the ceiling and chewed on his lip. After a moment, he finally returned to his phone, and as his thumb began to tap against the keys, it was torn from his hand by his unimpressed looking coach.

The hushed Russian was drowned out by the music echoing through the stadium, but judging by Viktor’s frustrated expression and gesticulations, Yuuri could guess that he was not particularly happy about his phone being confiscated. Not that he could blame him; if Yosano did the same to him, Yuuri couldn’t say he’d be pleased.

Yakov Feltsman was known to be a tough coach, however, and by the rolling of his eyes as he shook his head at the skater, it seemed that he’d been putting up with Viktor’s antics for a long time.

It didn’t take long for Viktor to accept the loss of his phone, sighing petulantly as he folded his arms and shuffled closer to his brother, whispering something with a smirk that made Yuri look like he was biting back a laugh. The sight had a small smile threatening to appear on Yuuri’s lips too, seeing Viktor crack a joke with his brother slightly pulling him down from the unreachable pedestal he’d placed him on.

“You’re staring.” Phichit mumbled, nudging Yuuri gently with a knowing smile, and Yuuri felt his cheeks flush, instantly averting his eyes to focus on the athlete performing, and hoping no one else had noticed.

Before he knew it, he was in his final pose and a cacophony of applause and cheers ripped through the stadium, the skater bowing with a wide smile before exiting the ice and heading to the kiss and cry to await his scores.

Viktor rose from his seat then, quickly unzipping his jacket and laying it over his coach’s arm carefully, before taking a quick swig of water from his bottle. As he made his way to the open gate, he rolled his shoulders back and bent down to remove his skate guards, placing them in Yakov’s open palm.

Yuuri watched attentively, no longer worried about being called out for staring, because surely everyone’s eyes were on him too. The whole crowd fell silent once Viktor was in the centre of the ice, his body in the starting pose awaiting the start of the music.

When the sounds trickled through the speakers throughout the stadium, Yuuri felt his breath catch in his throat. He’d spent so long waiting for the moment he could see one of Viktor’s performances in person, but no amount of preparation could have made him ready for how fluently and beautifully Viktor actually moved on the ice.

Everyone else seemed to feel the same way, each person offering their undivided attention as no one dared to utter a word, the only other sound audible cutting through the silence of the crowd was the smooth slicing of Viktor’s blades. Blended with the soundtrack, the two of them merged and intertwined perfectly as Viktor spun and launched himself into the air, landing perfectly without the slightest falter.

Yuuri reached for his own water bottle, taking a large gulp as he watched, feeling the heat rise to cheeks.

Woah.” Phichit whispered from beside him, and Yuuri could only nod, not daring to tear his eyes away for even a second.

By the time Viktor had finished his program, one knee resting on the ice as he crossed his arms over his chest, Yuuri was still in awe, shaking his head a few times to break himself from his daze.

Viktor bowed gracefully and a few loose hairs slipped from his plait, framing his face and complementing the large grin he wore, eyes crinkling from the stretch of his lips.

Yuuri couldn’t help the way he felt himself mirroring the expression, loving the sight of joy flowing from Viktor, so raw and real as he made his way off the ice. Yakov met him with a hand patting his shoulder, but Yuuri could see the hints of a smile on his lips as they were projected onto the large screens around the stadium.

In the kiss and cry, Viktor bounced excitedly in his seat, his arms wrapped around a soft poodle plushie that had been thrown onto the ice. Beside him, Yuri sat with his arms folded, his gaze looking elsewhere as Yakov said something to the two of them.

As Viktor’s score was announced and his name shot to the top of the score board, Yuri’s façade betrayed him for a moment in the way his expression softened, and he muttered something to Viktor with a smirk and a nudge.

The delight radiated from Viktor, a laugh bubbling from his lips at whatever Yuri had said, and he waved at the camera with a blinding smile.

Yuuri wasn’t surprised at all that Viktor had taken first place, he was pretty sure everyone watching had expected the same thing in fact. After all, he wasn’t called a figure skating prodigy for no reason.

Yakov didn’t seem surprised either, giving his student a small nod that Viktor returned as they rose to their feet, swiftly returning to their seats to watch the rest of the skaters.

As it drew closer and closer to Yuuri being due to skate, he found his nerves were beginning to rise again, an uncomfortable twisting sensation in his stomach causing a frown to tug at his lips. Wanting a distraction, he tried to focus on the athletes on the ice, but as they skated and left one by one, Yuuri realised he hadn’t been paying attention at all, nausea still threatening to make an appearance.

Wanting to try a different tactic, he pulled his phone from his jacket pocket and couldn’t ignore the way his chest tightened when he saw the blank screen. Niki had always texted him before he was due to skate, had been there to help ease his nerves but now there wasn’t anything, not even a last minute good luck message.

He tried not to think about it too much. As far as he knew, Niki was in the stadium with him. He was probably actually watching all of the other skaters – like Yuuri should have been. Brushing the thought away, he put his phone away and folded his arms, biting the inside of his cheek, a nervous habit he’d developed over the years.

When the skater before Yuuri made his way off the ice, Yuuri took a deep breath and headed towards the rink side with Phichit and Yosano by his side, taking a moment to relax as the other athlete received his score.

Although he vaguely registered his coach’s hand comfortingly squeezing his shoulder, Yuuri couldn’t focus on the words being spoken to him. They drifted through the air between them but fell on deaf ears, Yuuri was only thinking about one thing as he started at the ice in front of him.

Viktor was watching him.

Viktor was actually watching him, and not just on a screen this time.

Not only Viktor, but Niki too.

It was almost overwhelming. As well as wanting to prove himself to the skater he’d idolised for so long, he also wanted to do it for the person that had been there for him the past few months. If it hadn’t been for Niki, Yuuri doubted that he would have even been at that competition, or have applied for any at all.

Phichit interlinked their hands and gave a tight squeeze, offering Yuuri a determined smile, his eyebrows drawn together and a smirk ghosting his lips, “Are you ready to get out there and show your Russian boyfriend what you’re made of?”

Yuuri couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped his lips, rolling his eyes in amusement as he decided to indulge Phichit with a small nod.

“Of course.” He nodded sarcastically, his eyes briefly glancing to where Viktor was sitting, before scanning the crowd surrounding them, knowing Niki was there somewhere, “Which one?”

Which one?” Phichit gasped, looking delighted as his eyes widened and he grinned, “Yuuri, I can’t believe this. I mean, I meant Niki. But Viktor is here too, so shoot for the stars.”

“Thanks.” Yuuri smiled, his eyes flickering to Viktor momentarily as he swallowed the lump threatening to form in his throat, “I’ll try.”

With one last squeeze of their hands and a pat to his back, Phichit stepped away from Yuuri, giving him room to step onto the ice, his name echoing through the stadium only a moment later.

As his blades smoothly cut into the ice, Yuuri exhaled and clung onto the familiarity it brought. If he closed his eyes, he could even imagine it was just like another practice session in Hasetsu.

But when his eyes swept over the large crowd around him, Yuuri couldn’t even pretend that was the truth. With the knowledge that Viktor and Niki were sat watching his movements at that very moment, Yuuri felt his hairs stand on end at the attention.

The need to impress them mingled with the nervousness spiralling in his stomach, interweaving tightly until Yuuri couldn’t distinguish between them anymore. They were opposite arms on the same scale, a constant fluctuation as it tilted back and forth, his heart beginning to thump against his rib cage.

As the music began to play, Yuuri allowed the notes wash over him, to guide his movements the way it had done so many times before. The racing of his heart began to drown out the racing of his mind as he skated, a constant pounding that coursed through his body, pulsing through his ears as he threw himself into his routine.

His muscles began to ache not too far in, but there was no time for respite. Not yet. His stamina was something Yosano and Niki had complimented religiously, and if there was one time he needed to make the most of it, it was now.

His breathing became erratic as he entered the second half, his chest rising and falling heavily with each twist and turn of his body, but he didn’t let it get the better of him, pushing it to the back of his mind and focusing on the music.

Although he was aware of Viktor sitting on the side-lines, watching him as he had done with each competitor before him, Yuuri didn’t dare to look. One glance and it could put him off completely, make him too aware of the reality that he had all of his attention for the next few minutes.

A small part of his mind was worried, scared that he’d see a vacant expression, see that Viktor didn’t see anything in him other than another dime a dozen skater. Someone who wasn’t worth his time.

He tried not to dwell on the thought, instead allowing the words of Phichit and Niki to flow through him and be pushed to forefront of his thoughts, the compliments and reassurance pushing him through the last section of his program.

However, as he dug his blade into the ice and launched into the air, Yuuri felt instantly that it was wrong.  His landing was miscalculated, his skates hitting the ice awkwardly as he was sent sprawling, his hands harshly slapping the ice.

The crowd gasped in their disappointment, and with a wince, Yuuri quickly pushed himself up, his ears flaming red from embarrassment as he ran through the last few movements. Luckily, he didn’t make any more mistakes, managing to finish it without a hitch.

As he moved into his final pose, legs shaking from exertion, Yuuri felt a release of pressure as the music faded out, replaced instead by the explosive cheers of the audience.

His fall was still fresh in his mind, replaying over and over, even as the cheers washed over him. Yuuri’s eyebrows furrowed at that, if people were still pleased with his performance, then maybe it wasn’t as bad as he’d thought it was. The fall only a minor blip, where he thought it had been more than that.

He couldn’t help the way his lips broke out into a grin, a hand running through his newly dishevelled hair as made his way to the gate, greeted by an exuberant looking best friend and coach.

“Yuuri, that was amazing!” Phichit exclaimed, his eyes alight with excitement as he placed his hands on Yuuri’s shoulders, earning a smile in return as Yuuri thanked him, his cheeks dusted pink.

“Excellent as always, Yuuri.” Yosano praised, leading them to the kiss and cry with a smile of his own.

Yuuri waited nervously for his score, his knee incessantly bouncing up and down as he chewed on his lip. Phichit seemed to notice, subtly resting a hand on the top of it and Yuuri sighed, grateful for the gesture as he twisted his jacket sleeves between his fingers.

When his score was called, Yuuri’s eyes widened, blinking a few times at the large screen to make sure he’d read it correctly, he’d expected something much lower. He was embraced in a hug by Phichit instantly, his friend chattering enthusiastically and gushing about Yuuri’s performance as he only blushed at the praise.

When they left the kiss and cry, Yuuri’s eyes curiously wandered around the rink, setting on Viktor who seemed to be looking in their direction too. Yuuri felt something in his chest as he swallowed, glancing behind him briefly and seeing a few of the other skaters, assuming that Viktor had been looking at them instead.

Not wanting to embarrass himself, Yuuri turned away, focusing his attention back on Phichit as he was swept into one of his stories, taking their seats to watch the remainder of the competition. Yuuri didn’t dare look back over in Viktor’s direction, not wanting to be caught staring, however tempting it may have been.

 


 

 

Once all of the skaters had received their scores, Yuuri sat comfortably in fourth place, thankfully not too many points behind the athlete in third. There was still time to medal, if he pulled through in the free skate he could bring home a bronze, or even another silver if he was really lucky.

Truthfully, Yuuri didn’t mind the colour of his medal, all he wanted was to be standing on the podium with Viktor, regardless of which side he was on.

Looking around the stadium, Yuuri noticed that many of the skaters were being interviewed, Viktor obviously being one of them. Although he knew Phichit was adamant about the two of them meeting, judging by the number of reporters surrounding him, Viktor probably wasn’t going to be done any time soon.

There was always tomorrow.

Heading to the showers, Yuuri quickly changed out of his costume and freshened himself up, wanting to make a good impression when he met Niki. To Phichit’s suggestion, he donned a pair of black jeans and one of his favourite jumpers, a soft pale grey. His lips pulled into a frown upon noticing they were slightly creased, but he tried to ignore it. After all, that was to be expected from sitting in his skate bag over the day.

His hair was still tousled from his earlier performance, strands sticking in all different directions as he tried to pat them down to no avail. Rooting through his bag, he was relieved to see that Phichit had slipped in a small pot of gel, apparently knowing Yuuri would need it.

Rubbing a small amount onto the tips of his fingers, Yuuri ran his hands through his hair, smiling at his reflection in the mirror when he managed to hold it back, a few loose hairs giving it a casual messy look.

When he met Phichit outside the athlete’s room a few moments later, his friend offered a whistle, slipping his phone into his pocket as he looked Yuuri up and down with an impressed smile.

“Looking good,” He complimented, pushing off from where he’d been leaning against the wall, linking his arm with Yuuri’s and squeezing him excitedly, “Niki’s not going to know what hit him.”

Phichit…” Yuuri sighed, rolling his eyes, and earning a smirk from his best friend as he only shrugged innocently.

“Are you ready?” Phichit began, adopting one of his more serious expressions as he turned to meet Yuuri’s eyes, “There’s still time to change your mind, if you’re not comfortable with it.”

Yuuri thought for a moment. A part of him was scared, wanted to back out and spend the rest of the day sat in his hotel room with Phichit, watching whatever cheap shows were on the tv in a language they couldn’t understand. It was tempting. It was an option that would put him at ease in its familiarity, something he didn’t have to think too hard about.

But the other, larger part of Yuuri wanted to meet Niki, to be face-to-face with the person who’d helped him so much over the past few months. He knew that if he backed out now he’d only regret it. After all, he wasn’t sure when the next time he’d be in Russia would be, and Niki was here, he’d come all this way to see the competition.

“I’m sure.” He nodded, biting his lip worriedly as they walked, “You’ll be with me though, right?”

“Of course.” Phichit confirmed, a reassuring smile on his lips helping to ease Yuuri’s thoughts as he sighed in relief.

The foyer was still bustling with life as they entered it, voices intermingling around them as they searched for Yosano, hidden somewhere in the crowd. It didn’t take them long to find him, the older man chatting to a few of the other coaches in one of the corners, his eyes crinkled in amusement at whatever they were talking about.

Yuuri and Phichit briskly headed over, Yosano turning to them with a smile as he greeted them, briefly introducing them to the coaches with a fond look in his eyes. A few of them shook Yuuri’s hand, complimenting him on his performance as he stuttered his thanks, a sheepish smile on his lips.

“Are you two off?” He asked after a moment, glancing between the two of them with a raised eyebrow. When Yuuri nodded, Yosano hummed, holding out his hand and gesturing to his bag; Yuuri shrugged it off his shoulder and handed it over, his coach slipping it over his own.

“Thanks, coach.” Yuuri said, rolling his shoulders, thankful for not having to carry it around for the rest of the night.

“Don’t worry about it,” Yosano waved a hand dismissively, jerking his head towards the group behind him, “I’m heading back to the hotel anyway, then going to catch up with old friends. You two have fun - but don’t come back too late.”

With a finger pointing at them, and his eyebrows raised, Yosano left no room for argument, Yuuri and Phichit quickly nodding in agreement. Although, Yuuri couldn’t say he particularly wanted to be out late in an unfamiliar city in the dark, especially when his Russian was non-existent further than a few simple phrases.

After bidding their goodbyes, Yuuri and Phichit headed out of the stadium, the cold wrapping around them as they pulled their coats closer to their bodies, shivering from the nip it brought to their hands.

The small café they’d arranged to meet Niki couldn’t have been more than a ten-minute walk, but as the snow beneath their feet crunched and the coldness seeped into their shoes, they couldn’t wait to be inside again.

The café was larger than Yuuri had expected, wooden tables spread out across the room with cushioned wicker chairs beside them. It had an undeniable homely atmosphere, the soft lighting bathing gentle ambers over the expanse of space.

Phichit and Yuuri wasted no time in finding seats, choosing a small table opposite the door that would hopefully be obvious to Niki as soon as he walked in. Judging by the number of other patrons around them, it seemed they weren’t the only ones who’d had the idea to visit the café after the competition. Conversations in different languages all permeated the air, the cluttering of cutlery on dishes intermingling as people ate their meals.

“Nervous?” Phichit asked, his eyes fixed on the creased napkin being twisted between Yuuri’s fingers as they waited, each minute seeming to pass slower than the previous.

“A little.” He admitted, clearing his throat and placing the napkin on the table, rubbing his palms against his jeans.

“It’ll be fine.” Phichit smiled, his eyes flickering to the large clock on the wall, “Not too long now.”

With a nod, Yuuri settled further into his seat, drumming his fingers against the smooth wood of his armrest as he watched the hands of the clock.

“What if he doesn’t show up?” Yuuri questioned, meeting Phichit’s gaze as his eyebrows pulled into a frown. Realistically, he knew that if Niki had travelled all this way, surely he wouldn’t just not show up, but the worry surfaced anyway as the time passed by and Niki didn’t make an appearance.

“I’m sure he will.” Phichit said kindly, his eyes soft in their reassurance, “Give it time, he’s not too late yet. Only ten minutes or so.”

“You’re right, you’re right.” Yuuri agreed, waving away the thought and lightly chuckling at himself.

As long as Niki showed up soon, it would be fine.

 


 

 

When over an hour had passed and Yuuri and Phichit were still alone, their only company a few empty glasses, Yuuri felt his heart deflating more and more with each tick of the clock. It sat proudly on the wall, almost mocking them as it reminded them of how long they’d waited for someone who might not even turn up.

Although it hadn’t made a single sound for hours, Yuuri still pulled out his phone hopefully, half expecting to see a message from Niki explaining that something had come up. Instead, he was met by a blank screen, the lack of notifications sitting heavily in his stomach as he slipped it back into his pocket.

“I don’t think he’s coming.” Yuuri sighed defeatedly, resting his chin against his palm as he slouched into his chair. He focused his attention on the glass in his hand, absentmindedly fiddling with the straw in an attempt to avoid seeing Phichit’s look of pity.

“It doesn’t look like it.” He agreed regretfully, and the confirmation only caused the crease in Yuuri’s brow to deepen. It was one thing for him to think it and let the idea swirl in his mind, but when Phichit also acknowledged it, he knew he was probably right.

“I’m sorry, Yuuri.” Phichit said, rising to his feet with a sad smile, Yuuri finally glancing up at him, “But we can still enjoy ourselves, I’ll go get us something better to drink than water and we can head back. Green tea?”

“Thank you.” Yuuri allowed his lips to upturn slightly as he nodded, Phichit’s gesture helping to finally begin to quell the disappointment that had been refusing to release him from its grasp.

With a small nod, Phichit turned and headed towards the counter, Yuuri trailing a few steps behind him. The excited chatter surrounding them that had seemed warm previously, now sounded bitter to his ears as it washed over him. The sound of Russian words reminding him of the absence of a certain Russian he should’ve met by now.

With Phichit’s practised English and cheerfulness, it didn’t take long for him to order their drinks, and Yuuri sighed at the warmth of the take-out cup placed in his hands only a moment later. Phichit only offered a smile when Yuuri thanked him once again, linking his empty hand with Yuuri’s and giving a kind squeeze.

“Ready to go back?” Phichit asked over the edge of his cup, taking a long sip as Yuuri nodded and did the same, the familiar taste helping to soothe the ache in his chest.

With a hum of acknowledgement, Phichit led them out of the door and back into the cold of the Russian winter, a new shower of snow falling from the sky. It glistened in the yellow glow of the streetlamps above them, and Yuuri studied it as they walked, watching the streams whip through the air as they were dragged and pulled by the wind.

When he finally averted his eyes, favouring the view of his boots crunching the snow beneath his feet, he caught sight of a lone figure walking towards them. In the darkness of the evening and their distance, the face was impossible to make out, but as they got closer, as a large gust of wind ripped through the air. It bit into Yuuri’s cheeks as his hood was pulled backwards, exposing his face to the cold and causing him to shiver.

As his shaking hands managed to grip onto the material and pull it back over his head, they’d drawn close enough to the figure to recognise them, and a small gasp escaped Yuuri’s lips as his eyes met blue.

Ducking his head, he tried to pass inconspicuously but it seemed the universe had other ideas.

“Yuuri, is that you?”

Yuuri stopped in his tracks as the voice called out, barely getting a few metres past Viktor before it had. He swallowed thickly and slowly turned around, his lips parted and eyebrows furrowed.

“Um, yeah.” He said hesitantly, still surprised that Viktor had recognised him, and when he caught a glance of Phichit’s delighted expression, it seemed his friend was too.

“Oh, great.” Viktor smiled, taking a step closer at the confirmation, and ushering them into the shelter of a nearby store entrance, “I’m so glad I caught you!”

“Caught me?” Yuuri asked quizzically, confused at the very idea that Viktor had been looking for him. It was easier to see the honesty in his smile as they stood in the nook of the building, sheltered from the worst of the wind that howled around with the snow.

“Yeah.” he continued, unfazed, but when his eyes scanned over Yuuri’s expression, down to the way his hands were clenched around his jacket sleeves nervously, and his knees wobbling, he seemed to deflate a little.

“Did you need something?” Yuuri questioned, his mood still sour from being stood up by Niki. Yuuri berated himself, at any other time he would’ve been thrilled to speak to Viktor, but having to face him now, when all he wanted to do was curl up in bed and watch badly subbed Russian TV with Phichit, it seemed like a curse.

“Oh, no. I don’t need anything.” Viktor waved the thought away, but he seemed more hesitant now, more thoughtful with his words. Perhaps he could sense Yuuri’s unease, as his expression softened and he scuffed his feet against the worn-down concrete, avoiding his gaze.

“It’s just that Yakov said that a few of the coaches had mentioned their skaters were planning on checking out the local cafe. As nice as my room may be, I didn’t want to stay cooped up in it all evening – especially when I’d be missing an opportunity to hang out with new faces. I wasn’t sure if I was too late though, my interviews ran on much longer than I expected.”

Yuuri noticed the small frown that flashed on Viktor’s face before it was replaced by his beaming smile again, “Although, I wouldn’t say you’re too much of a new face. It’s great to finally meet you!”

Finally?  How long had he been waiting to meet? Or was he just being polite?

“Finally?” Phichit questioned, looking just as confused as Yuuri felt, and Viktor looked almost caught out for a second, his eyes widening a fraction.

A sheepish chuckle bubbled from Viktor’s throat, fingers combing through his tangled silver strands in favour of looking up at them, “Yeah. I’ve been meaning to talk to you for a little while now.”

What?” Phichit asked, beating Yuuri to the question.

“I saw one of your performances and you caught my attention.” Viktor began, licking his lips before continuing, seeming to think carefully as he spoke, “A Japanese qualifier if I remember correctly? Yura wanted to watch it, so I joined him. But after Trophée Éric Bompard, I knew I had to meet you.”

It seemed too good to be true, Yuuri’s heart was beating hard against his ribcage as he considered it for a moment, questions exploding in his mind with each second that passed, “Why after Trophée Éric Bompard?”

“A few reasons.” Viktor said, a finger resting on his lip as he hummed in thought, “First it was your performance. Like today, I couldn’t bring myself to take my eyes off you. But then making the podium in your first senior international competition? Very impressive.”

“Oh.” Yuuri said unintelligently, thinking of something to say. Luckily, Viktor filled the silence, elaborating further.

“Then after you met him, Chris was gushing to me about how lovely the both of you were.” This was directed at Phichit too, Viktor looking between them, “Although he admitted he thought you were dating at first.”

“We get that a lot.” Phichit chuckled, shaking his head with a roll of his eyes before giving Yuuri a knowing look.

Suddenly, Phichit patted his pockets with furrowed eyebrows, pulling out a phone that was very much not vibrating, pretending to answer a call as he held it up to his ear.

“Hi Yosano-sensei!” He winked at Yuuri, ignoring the glare that was shot in his direction, “No, I’m not busy. Are you serious? Yeah, of course. I’ll be there soon.”

Phichit ended the non-existent phone call and slipped the device into one of his pockets, sighing all the while, “Sorry, but I have to go. Coach needs my help with something.”

“Just you?” Yuuri asked flatly, although Viktor at least offered a sympathetic frown.

“Yeah, just me.” Phichit confirmed with a nod, “He has a thing.”

“What thing?” Yuuri deadpanned, unimpressed.

“You know,” Phichit cleared his throat, biting back a smile, “that thing he was talking to us earlier about?”

“I don’t recall.” Yuuri said, but Phichit just shrugged and waved it away, taking a few steps backwards.

“Well, I can’t keep him waiting. Call me if you need me!” Phichit grinned, holding up a hand to his ear and giving Yuuri a reassuring look, before taking his now empty cup and swiftly turning on his heel, heading out back into the snow.

With Phichit gone once again, Yuuri became incredibly aware of Viktor’s presence. The attention that he had from the other man was burning into him, and he racked his brain desperately for something, anything, to say.

“The thing must have been important.” Viktor commented thoughtfully, his eyes fixed on Phichit’s rapidly retreating figure, “I think the snow’s gotten heavier, and he didn’t even think twice before heading into it.”

Chuckling nervously, Yuuri nodded and focused his attention on the thick snowfall, not wanting to meet Viktor’s gaze, “Yeah. Yosano-sensei is a busy man, sometimes he needs help with things.”

Yuuri had no idea if Viktor had bought it, although he seriously doubted it. Phichit was a terrible actor and had used one of the oldest tricks in the book, without a convincing reason. So, no. Viktor definitely hadn’t bought it. But at least he was polite enough to play along to save Yuuri from more embarrassment.

“Ah, I understand.” Viktor hummed, badly concealing a smirk, “Yakov’s the same.”

Taking another look at the snow falling heavily beside them, Viktor turned to face Yuuri with a frown on his lips, “The snows still pretty heavy. Do you want to brave it, or wait here for it to lighten a little?”

Yuuri’s eyes flickered between Viktor’s questioning expression and the snow, chewing on his lip thoughtfully. The refuge they’d found in the form of a store’s entrance wasn’t perfect, but the shelter and relief from being battered by the wind seemed much more appealing than having to walk though it again.

“I think we should stay here, if that’s okay?” Yuuri said hesitantly, relaxing when he saw Viktor’s lips pull into a small smile.

“Sounds good to me.” He said, tugging the long scarf from his neck and unfolding it, gently laying it on top of the damp tiles beneath their feet. Slowly lowering himself onto it, Viktor leaned against the bricks behind him and patted the empty space of the fabric, “I know its not much, but it’ll save your trousers from getting wet at least.”

“Thanks.” Yuuri said sheepishly, grateful for the fact that they didn’t have to stand the entire time, but also extremely aware of how close they were. Viktor shuffled along a little to give Yuuri more space, encouraging him to move over too, and they ended up pressed together, their arms and knees knocking together slightly.

“So, Yuuri,” Viktor began after a moment, and Yuuri turned to meet the soft blue of his eyes, “Tell me about yourself?”

“Me?” Yuuri asked, suddenly forgetting every single thing that had ever happened to him, as well as any redeeming or interesting facts he could share.

Viktor only laughed gently, amusement flickering in his eyes as he looked around, “Who else would I be talking to?”

“Right, of course.” A nervous laugh bubbled from his throat once again and he twisted his fingers in his lap, biting his lip as he thought, “There’s really not very much to know.”

“I doubt that.” Viktor said, raising an eyebrow as he shifted in his seat. Resting an elbow on his knee, he placed his chin on the palm of his hand and hummed, his eyes searching, “How about you tell me about your dog?”

“My dog?” Yuuri questioned, taken aback for a moment, his eyes narrowing in confusion, “How do you know I have a dog?”

“Lucky guess.” Viktor quickly said, looking away for a second before offering his most charming grin, “All the best people have dogs.”

“Oh, okay.” Yuuri ignored the hesitance he felt and quickly retrieved his phone from his pocket, opening up the album he had dedicated to photos of Vicchan. Placing the phone in front of him, he began swiping through them, Viktor gushing about how cute he was all the while.

He was relieved that he found some familiar territory to tread on, that talking about Vicchan came naturally and he could almost pretend it wasn’t Viktor Nikiforov he was talking to.

Almost.

Until the dreaded question came.

“What’s his name?” Viktor asked, curiosity dusting his features as he cooed at a photo of Vicchan as a puppy, Yuuri’s phone tightly clutched in his hand as he grinned.

Oh.

Oh no.

Time seemed to freeze as Yuuri considered his limited options.

  1. Make up a name and never look back, never call Vicchan by his name around Viktor and hope that he would never get called out on it. Plausible, but risky.
  2. Tell the truth. Hope that Viktor didn’t understand, and that he would move on without a second thought. Clearly the best option, the chances of Viktor realising were slim to none.

“Vicchan.” Yuuri admitted quietly, keeping his eyes glued to the screen and feeling his face heat when Viktor gasped softly, turning to face Yuuri.

“Wait a second…” Viktor said, sounding delighted and Yuuri resolutely did not look at him, “Isn’t chan a...what’s it called?”

“An honorific?” Yuuri supplied hesitantly, feeling his blood slowly turn colder.

“Yeah, that’s the one! So…Vic…chan?” Viktor asked excitedly, and Yuuri refused to say anything, biting the insides of his cheeks as Viktor continued, “Yuuri, did you name your dog Viktor?”

“No comment.” He mumbled, burying his head in his hands as he felt his cheeks burning. Viktor giggled beside him, happiness radiating from his sounds of delight and Yuuri wished he’d gone with the first option.

“So, do you have a friend or family member called Viktor?” Viktor asked teasingly, and Yuuri shook his head, willing for the ground to swallow him up, or for something to make this moment end already.

“So, you named your dog after…”

“Please don’t make me say it.” Yuuri whispered, his hands still covering his face in embarrassment, but Viktor gently took them in his own and peeled them away.

“Yuuri, I’m flattered.” He said with a smile, and the softness of his features revealed his honesty. If he looked closely, Yuuri could almost see the traces of a blush on his cheeks, making something flutter in his chest. “It’s actually incredibly cute.”

“Can we please stop talking about this?” Yuuri averted his gaze, knowing he was completely flushed, and didn’t want to deepen the redness of his face any more, “Anyway, don’t you have a dog?”

“Yeah I do, she’s called Makkachin!” Viktor smiled fondly, allowing the focus to fall back onto himself as he excitedly pulled out his phone, presumably to show Yuuri pictures. But he faltered and tilted his screen away ever so slightly, his movements stilling, “But, you’ve probably already seen most of my photos of her.”

When Yuuri only gave him a quizzical look, Viktor cleared his throat and explained, “I post pretty much all of them online, so I don’t really have many new ones.”

Yuuri nodded in understanding; although he wasn’t very big on his social media accounts, he followed Viktor’s religiously. Between every photo of a medal, his skating, and a selfie, there was always one of Makkachin to act as a buffer – but Yuuri was almost certain that wasn’t the intention, Viktor probably just took that many photos of her that he always had enough to share.

“Here’s one!” He said happily, grinning as he held his phone out in front of Yuuri, making a point of moving the device entirely away before scrolling to find a new one. Yuuri didn’t take it to heart though, he hadn’t let Viktor see all of his photos either.

It was clear to see how much Viktor loved Makkachin in the way he was smiling the entire time he showed Yuuri photos of her, accompanied by small anecdotes more often than not, especially with excited gesticulations. Yuuri couldn’t help but feel a little privileged to have been given a look into Viktor’s personal life away from the ice, and the cameras that followed him surrounding it.

Eventually, Viktor ran out of photos of Makkachin, and instead began to show Yuuri photos of his rink mates. Yuri’s comments about Georgi’s theatrics the previous day made much more sense when Viktor began laughing to himself, pulling up photos he’d sneakily took of the other skater. Georgi was dramatically leaning over the barrier with a forlorn look painted on his face in one of them, an unimpressed Yuri Plisetsky standing behind him with folded arms.

Viktor’s shoulders began to shake with laughter when he flicked through a series of photos. The first featured Georgi’s back, although his face was visible in the mirror he was standing in front of – the rink toilets, Viktor helpfully supplied. He had his eyelid pulled taut and a pencil in his hand, his tongue sticking out in concentration. The next photos documented the moment Georgi noticed him, turning around and shooting Viktor an amused look, before rushing to press his hands in front of the lens.

“That was the first time he decided to try out the whole eyeliner thing,” Viktor began, scrolling back and pinching the screen to zoom in on Georgi’s face, “I mean, he’s definitely gotten better at it.”

Yuuri had to agree, noticing the thick blue that covered his eyelids unevenly and the thick black smudges of a blunt pencil, “Yeah, definitely.”

“He tried to convince Yura to let him do his too.” Viktor smirked, offering Yuuri an amused look.

“Oh, really? How did that go?” He asked, finding himself mirroring Viktor’s expression effortlessly.

“Yakov intervened before he could even answer.” Viktor shrugged, tapping his thumb on his screen as he searched for something new, “Although, I’m pretty sure he would have loved it – not that he’d ever admit it. He’d probably pretend he hated it the whole time, but then keep it on as long as he possibly could.”

“Well, he does have a bit of an edgy vibe going for him.” Yuuri commented with a small nod, and Viktor rolled his eyes with a smile.

“Ah, yes. He is the edgiest person I know.” He remarked sarcastically, turning his phone once again to show him a photo of Yuri. He was laying on a sofa with his cat – Potya, if Yuuri remembered correctly – wrapped in his arms and a soft expression on his face as he slept, blond strands of hair framing his face.

Very edgy.” Yuuri confirmed, feigning seriousness as he drew his eyebrows together.

“He likes to think so.” Viktor chuckled, before an exaggerated pout found its way onto his lips, sighing dramatically, “He thinks he’s too cool for his big brother too.”

“How can anyone think they’re too cool for you?” Yuuri said without thinking, blushing red instantly and averting his eyes to stare out at the snow, “I mean – it’s just that… you’re kind of a skating prodigy?”

“I wouldn’t say that.” Viktor scoffed, “They might, but I just go out there to skate because I want to show everyone how much I love it, and I find creating programs and stories beautiful. They decided to call me that all on their own. Besides, having a title like that hanging over your head is a lot of pressure.”

“But you earned it for a reason.” Yuuri began, turning his attention back to Viktor and taking in his expression, “You’re incredible.”

“Thanks, Yuuri.” Viktor gave a half smile, before it grew and he was caught on the edge of a smirk, turning the attention away from himself, “But have you seen yourself out on the ice?”

“I’m okay, I guess.” Yuuri shrugged, feeling a little uncomfortable at the praise. Coming from Viktor Nikiforov, it was hard to convince himself that he wasn’t just saying it to be kind, that Viktor actually believed his own words.

“You guess?” Viktor repeated, frowning, and that look of disapproval made Yuuri want to squirm.

In lieu of answering, Yuuri shrugged and chewed on his lip, unsure of what to say. This was neither the time nor place to let his insecurities claw their way to the surface, to admit to the skater he’d been looking up to for so long that he didn’t think he should even be at the competition - that it must have just been a fluke.

When it became clear that Yuuri wasn’t going to say anything, the silence stretching between them for a moment, Viktor’s eyes softened and he shuffled in his seat, his stare unwavering, “Well, Yuuri. I think you’re amazing. That step sequence was…wow.”

Viktor made a whistling sound that ignited a blush on Yuuri’s cheeks, but he tried not to let it get to his head, remembering the faults in his performance.

“But I fell.” He said flatly, the small failure still fresh in his mind and he winced as the memory resurfaced. The harsh slap of his hands onto the ice had been like a slap in the face too, a hot flush of embarrassment that flowed through him when he heard the crowds’ gasps. Viktor had seen it too, and that only served to twist the knife deeper.

“Athletes fall all the time.” Viktor said, waving a hand dismissively, “It’s bound to happen. But your presentation was incredible, I couldn’t look away for a second.”

Yuuri felt his face burning at full force, although he’d know that he’d probably had Viktor’s full attention for his whole performance, the confirmation sent a spark of excitement through him.

He had his attention now too. Sharp cerulean eyes pinning him in place as he waited for a response, expectant but patient.

Even if Yuuri had known what to say, he didn’t get the opportunity when his phone began to chime, interrupting the moment as he pulled it from his jacket pocket. For a small moment, he had hoped that it was a message from Niki, but that flicker of hope was pushed aside when he saw Phichit’s name on his screen.

 

 

“I’m really sorry, I didn’t realise how late it had gotten.” Yuuri began, swiftly putting his phone away and rising to his feet, holding a hand out to Viktor to pull him up too, “I think we better head back, but it was lovely meeting you.”

Viktor’s eyes momentarily glanced to the snow that was now much lighter, and he offered Yuuri a kind smile, accepting his hand as he was pulled to his feet, “I think you’re right, it was lovely meeting you too, Yuuri.”

Something about hearing his name come from Viktor’s lips had Yuuri biting his own lip to supress the smile that was threatening to bloom.

Viktor picked up his scarf and brushed some of the water droplets off it, laying it loosely over his shoulders and taking a few steps towards the exit of their makeshift shelter.

“After you.” He gestured, swinging an arm out in front of him with a bow and Yuuri chuckled as he pulled his hood up, snow falling around him as he stepped out into the night once again.

“How kind of you.” He remarked, turning to face Viktor as he joined Yuuri, pulling his own hood up and buttoning the material up to his chin.

To Yuuri’s relief, the walk back to the hotel was peaceful, Viktor filling the silence easily as Yuuri listened, breathing into his shaking hands as the cold bit into them. Leaving his gloves in his hotel room was a mistake Yuuri wished he hadn’t made, the redness of his fingertips and knuckles painfully clear even under the dim glow of the streetlights.

Suddenly black fabric was being pushed into his hands, and it took him a moment to realise that Viktor’s hands were now bare, smooth leather resting against Yuuri’s palms.

“Take them.” Viktor encouraged, nodding towards them when Yuuri only stared at him dumbly, “Your hands look freezing. Trust me, you need them more than I do.”

“I couldn’t.” Yuuri shook his head, trying to push them back into Viktor’s hands but he only laughed and insisted, refusing to take them, “Viktor, but then your hands will get cold.”

“I’ll be fine.” He shrugged, tucking his hands into his coat pockets, “It’s not too far now.”

“Thank you.” Yuuri knew there was no use trying to convince him, so he reverently pulled them on, grateful for the small amount of warmth they brought. He stretched and wiggled his fingers in them, still not quite believing that he was with Viktor Nikiforov, wearing Viktor Nikiforov’s gloves.

By the time they’d made it to the lobby of the hotel, Yuuri’s hands were much warmer, and before he could try and take the gloves off and hand them over, Viktor was quick to speak.

“Hey Yuuri,” He started, and if Yuuri didn’t know any better, he would have said that Viktor almost looked nervous, “Would you mind if… um…”

Yuuri looked at him quizzically as Viktor cleared his throat, his nose dusted an adorable red from the cold, “Would you mind if I gave you my number?”

Yuuri’s heart stuttered, his palms beginning to sweat slightly. Viktor wanted to give Yuuri his number? The list of people who wanted his number was infinite, and Yuuri couldn’t believe that he, of all people could have it.

Viktor must have mistaken his silence for hesitance, his expression faltering as small creases formed between his brow, “Yuuri?”

“Yes.” He said quickly, cutting off Viktor’s doubts and hastily fishing his phone out and handing it over, “I’d love your number.”

“Okay, that’s great.” Viktor grinned, thumbs nimbly typing and Yuuri bounced between his feet as he watched, his smile matching Viktor’s own once it was passed back.

“Text me later so I can save yours?” Viktor said hopefully, and his smile deepened when Yuuri nodded in confirmation.

The two of them stared at each other for a moment with words on the tips of their tongues, but as the silence stretched on, they broke it with soft laughter, heading towards the lifts upon Yuuri’s suggestion.

They stepped in together, each of them pressing different numbers and when the door opened a moment later, Viktor backed out of it, his attention still fixed on Yuuri.

“This is my floor.” Viktor commented, and Yuuri had to bite back a laugh.

“I can tell.” He said, but when Viktor just stood there and rolled his eyes despite the smile betraying him, Yuuri hit the button to keep the doors open.

“Okay, well I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.” Viktor finally said, his eyes glistening as he shot Yuuri a look, “On the podium, da?”

“See you tomorrow, Viktor.” Yuuri smiled, not wanting to indulge too much in the thought of actually making the podium with him. If he missed it, it would only sting twice as hard if Viktor was expecting him to be there.

When the doors finally closed, Yuuri allowed himself to exhale deeply, leaning against the rail behind him. His reflection stared back in the full-length mirrors surrounding him, and he caught sight of the way his eyes were crinkled and the upturn of his lips.

A warmth bloomed in his chest as he thought back on the last few hours. He still couldn’t believe it, he’d spent time with Viktor Nikiforov, had gotten his number- and all without embarrassing himself too much.

His good mood must have been more obvious than he thought, because upon entering his room, it only took one look at him for Phichit’s face to light up.

“So?” He asked excitedly, rising from where he’d been laying in favour of grabbing Yuuri by the shoulders, shaking him lightly, “How did it go?”

“First of all,” Yuuri began, mock glaring at Phichit as he peeled his hands from him, “I cannot believe you did that to me.”

“It was for the greater good, Yuuri!” Phichit defended, throwing his hands out in front of him for emphasis, “I saw an opportunity and I took it. Besides, I did say I was only a phone call away.”

“You’re lucky it went well.” Yuuri sighed, pointing a finger at Phichit with narrowed eyes.

“It went well?” Phichit beamed, bouncing on his feet and Yuuri nodded, seating himself on the edge of his bed to untie his shoes.

“Yeah.” Focusing on his laces, Yuuri pulled them loose and worked on pulling his sneakers off instead of seeing Phichit’s expression. When he finally did, it was expectant, eagerness overflowing from every feature as he waited for Yuuri to explain.

“We talked about our dogs and shared photos.” Yuuri shrugged, although fondness enveloped him as he thought back, “Then he told me some stories about the rink in Saint Petersburg and his rink mates. It was light and easy.”

“Your dogs?” Phichit asked, and with the way his voice rose a few pitches, Yuuri knew where it was going, “Wait, Yuuri, did he know that you named Vicchan after hi-“

“-I don’t want to talk about it.” Yuuri sighed, wincing at the memory and sinking his head into the nearest pillow with a groan.

“Okay, we won’t.” Phichit agreed, despite sounding pleased, “So if it went well, did you give him your number?”

Yuuri made a non-committal hum from where he laid, and heard Phichit gasp, the bed sinking as he joined him, pulling him up to meet his gaze.

“You did, didn’t you?”

“Not exactly.” Yuuri said, brushing away the loose hairs that had fallen out of place and averting his gaze.

“Not exactly?” Phichit questioned hesitantly, his eyebrows furrowing in concern, “Please don’t tell me you missed this opportunity, Yuuri.”

“I didn’t.” He said, shaking his head as he grabbed his phone and unlocked it, tapping the screen a few times to bring up the contact and showing it to his best friend, “He gave me his.”

“Oh my god.” Phichit’s mouth was slightly agape, almost disbelieving as his eyes darted between Yuuri and the phone in his hand. “Oh my god. Have you texted him yet?”

“In the time it took me to walk from the lift to our room? No.” Yuuri ignored Phichit’s sigh as he rose to his feet, removing his coat and hanging it on the back one of the armchairs.

“Okay, but when are you going to text him?” Phichit asked eagerly, and frowned when Yuuri only shrugged and walked past him.

“Not right now.” Gathering his pyjamas from his unmade bed, Yuuri headed into the bathroom, closing the door behind him and taking a deep breath.

“This isn’t over!” Phichit sing-songed from the other side of the door and Yuuri rolled his eyes.

It wasn’t that he didn’t want to text Viktor. He was just afraid that he’d say the wrong thing, that he’d expose himself as a fraud and Viktor would rethink ever giving him his number in the first place.

What if they got along fine, but then Viktor grew bored of him? Yuuri didn’t know if his heart would be able to take it if he was given a taste of a friendship with Viktor, only for it to be taken from him, to fizzle out over time.

He shuddered at the thought of sending a message that would only bug Viktor, that he’d sigh whenever he saw Yuuri’s name appear on his screen.

A shy, insecure part of him helpfully supplied that he couldn’t have the opportunity to mess it up if he never actually initiated a conversation; that it couldn’t go wrong if he never gave it the chance to.

But another part of him reminded him of how Viktor had seemed nervous to ask, and he could still see the smile he’d worn once Yuuri said yes. Surely that counted for something?

Shaking his head, Yuuri dismissed the thoughts for the moment and returned to the task at hand, emerging from the bathroom several minutes later to see Phichit laying on his back, his head hanging off the edge of his bed.

“Yuuri, for the love of God,” He whined, shifting so he was laying on his front instead, “Do you ever put your phone on silent? It’s been buzzing and chiming for the last five minutes.”

“Oh, sorry.” He apologised sheepishly, hastily walking to the chair and digging through his jacket pockets, pulling out the device and flicking it onto silent mode.

He couldn’t deny the way he lit up when he saw the offending notifications had come from Niki, and although a part of him was still upset at him for not showing up, his relief overpowered the emotion, and he was quick to open the messages.

With Niki’s encouragement, Yuuri found it a little easier for him to open his messages and select Viktor’s name, smiling bashfully at the contact.

Chewing his lip, he thought for a moment, fingers tapping the keyboard, typing and retyping a message until he was happy with it.

Yuuri had to admit that when he’d woken up that morning, he hadn’t expected to end it by spending the evening with Viktor Nikiforov, getting his number, and then texting him into the late hours of the night.

He couldn’t particularly say he was disappointed, however, and the flutter of his heart as he stared up at the ceiling was proof of that. The darkness stared back at him, and the gentle snoring of his best friend warned him that he should be asleep, and with a grin still painted on his lips, he rolled over and closed his eyes.

A small part of him found it odd that he’d exchanged goodnight messages with Viktor, rather than Niki, but he hadn’t received any new messages from him since his encouragement. Brushing the thought away, Yuuri assumed he’d already fallen asleep, and decided to talk to him later, allowing himself to drift off and be greeted by warm dreams.

 


 

With Viktor’s advice, and the awareness that he was watching Yuuri and expected great things from him, he was still miraculously able to perform his free skate without any major incidents. Maybe a wobbled landing on one of his doubles, but he didn’t let it get to him, pouring his heart into the performance and letting his emotions bleed out onto the ice for everyone to see.

He had a lot to prove. Viktor had complimented his step sequence, so he focused on making it especially clean-cut. His movements were more precise, yet more fluid than they ever had been, and it left Yuuri feeling graceful even as his program came to a close; the audience cheering while he stood in his final position, deep breaths racking through his chest.

The rest of the competition passed in a blur, each athlete taking to the ice, skating, and leaving, but Yuuri barely noticed it. His mind was elsewhere, eyes wandering and finding Viktor like they’d done the day before, but this time Viktor met his gaze more often than not, shooting him a smile.

A shy smile of his own appeared each time, and he was quick to avert his gaze, embarrassed.

Was Viktor always this friendly?

It was something that had been nagging at the back of Yuuri’s mind, yet he pushed it down instead of facing it. He was enjoying the attention, and despite knowing it was probably the truth, he didn’t want to think about Viktor treating everyone the same way.

Sure, Chris had said that Viktor hadn’t had a serious relationship, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t flirt with people. Flirting was fun, harmless if done carefully, and Yuuri had no doubts that Viktor was not one to hold back when it came to charming everyone he met.

Something heavy sat in Yuuri’s stomach at that, and he couldn’t bring himself to look over anymore. He knew he’d been allowing himself to be strung along, but he knew that if he indulged in it too much, the confirmation that Viktor wasn’t interested at all would only topple down harder.

 


 

A few hours later, Yuuri found his himself sitting in third place on the leader board again, and his name being announced around the stadium. Viktor sat rightfully in first place, followed by the skater from China, Cao Bin.

In an almost dazed state, he stepped onto the ice again, skating out and bowing to the applause of the audience before shaking hands with Viktor. His palm was warm and his grip secure, and Yuuri didn’t want to let go, but knowing he had to take his place on the podium – and not wanting to embarrass himself – he dropped it quickly and moved onto the silver medallist before taking his place.

“Congratulations, Yuuri.” Viktor said kindly, smiling down at him in a way that made Yuuri’s knees weak, “You skated beautifully.”

“Thank you.” Yuuri managed to say, his heart thrumming wildly in his chest as he lifted his head, knowing perfectly well his cheeks were probably flushed.

“So did you, it was incredible.” He breathed out, intoxicated with the way Viktor was grinning at him, looking beyond pleased at Yuuri’s words.

Viktor’s eyes darted to the side for a moment and Yuuri turned just on time to see people in suits making their way onto the ice, a red carpet smoothly rolled over it.

He was thrumming in anticipation when he saw the medals being brought towards them, and when the gold was placed around Viktor’s neck, Yuuri knew it was where it belonged.

He’d been lucky to scrape a third-place finish, edging out the skater below him with only a handful of points, but Viktor had outscored everyone by a wide margin. He deserved the gold medal, there was no doubt about it.

The bronze looked just as amazing as he held it in his hand, watching the lights of the stadium glint off it as he tilted it back and forth. It wasn’t exactly a gold or silver, but it was a medal, something Yuuri had earned by giving everything he could to his performance, and it had given him the opportunity to stand beside his idol.

In the crowd of faces, Yuuri quickly found Phichit’s, his best friend grinning larger than Yuuri had ever seen him. His phone was raised, documenting the moment with videos, photos, or knowing Phichit, both.

This was something Yuuri had dreamed about for so long, and although he was breathing too fast, and his muscles were trembling, he couldn’t bring himself to mind too much.

He’d done it. He’d actually met Viktor Nikiforov, was standing on the same podium as him. Yuuri almost wanted to laugh hysterically, unable to comprehend how it had happened, but as he looked up at board and saw his name displayed by his score, he knew it was right.

It had been extremely tight though, the few skaters below him sharing similar scores and if Yuuri had made one wrong move, he’d probably have ended up in sixth place instead.

Phichit gave him a thumbs up and Yuuri subtly returned it, all too aware of all the cameras aimed in his direction and when he held his medal by his face and grinned at him, he heard Viktor chuckling softly.

Suddenly, he remembered the deal he’d made with Niki months ago, and Yuuri was nothing if not a man of his word.

Shifting on his skates, Yuuri cleared his throat to get Viktor’s attention.

“Hey, so I’m going to sound out of my mind.” Yuuri said quietly as Viktor gave him a curious look, “Please don’t question it. Just answer, okay?”

“What?” He asked confusedly, and Yuuri could feel his blood pulsing though his body, but he didn’t want to miss the opportunity.

“Just, please?” Yuuri said, as if that explained everything, and Viktor nodded amusedly with a minute shrug.

“What’s your favourite ice cream flavour?” Yuuri questioned, and as soon as the question had left his lips, he could feel the mortification slowly seeping into his bones. He could say confidently, that he doubted Viktor had ever had something like that asked in a medal ceremony, and was more than likely rethinking this whole friendship thing he’d started with Yuuri.

Something glistened in Viktor’s eyes as he smiled, hidden behind his expression that Yuuri couldn’t quite put a finger on.

“Chocolate.” He said, his lips tugged into an almost smug looking smirk, but it disappeared a moment later and Yuuri gave him a considering look.

“Are you sure?” He questioned sceptically, eyes narrowed.

“Certain.” Viktor nodded, and to his credit, didn’t look as confused at the question as Yuuri had expected him to be.

“Damn.”

Before he could say any more, the three of them were subjected to the rapid flash of cameras, Yuuri and Cao instructed to step up to Viktor’s tier of the podium and huddle close. He could hear Viktor’s gentle breathing from their proximity, and when he placed an arm over each of their shoulders, Yuuri swore all the breath left him completely.

After turning to face all the different cameras, their smiles never dropping, all too soon it was over, and Phichit was practically bouncing as he embraced Yuuri at the rink side, mumbling incoherent congratulations as he babbled about the ceremony.

“-so many pictures.” He said while pulling away, Yuuri finally making some sense of what he’d been gushing about, and he was going to make sure he got sent every single one of said photos, as well as scavenging the internet for official ones.

Someone called Viktor’s name as he stepped off the ice, a young girl, who was waving her arm, a blue flower crown held between her fingers. With a delighted smile, he quickly secured his skate guards and walked over, bending slightly as she placed it on his head, a thank you rolling off his tongue as her cheeks grew red.

Me too, Yuuri thought.

As expected, Viktor was almost instantly swept up in a crowd of reporters, offering his best practised smile as he smoothly answered all questions thrown his way.

When Yuuri heard a call of his name and noticed a few people walking towards him with microphones and cameras of their own, he felt his heart sink. He didn’t know how Viktor found it so easy to answer everything so perfectly, but Yuuri wished he’d at least been given some tips as the first microphone was pushed into his hand.

 

 


 

After what seemed far too long to be deemed reasonable, the camera was switched off and he was thanked for his time by the reporter, who finally, finally gave him some time to himself.

Phichit was back by his side in an instant, making sure he was okay as he handed over his glasses and team jacket. Yuuri welcomed the warmth with open arms, zipping it up almost entirely up to his chin, and pulling the sleeves over his hands instinctively.

He slowly registered the soft footsteps of someone approaching, followed by the slight pressure of something resting on his head and Yuuri slowly turned in confusion, only to be met with a delighted looking Viktor.

“It suits you.” He commented with folded arms, looking at Yuuri contentedly as his eyes darted up to his hair and back down again, glistening all the while.

It took Yuuri a moment to realise what he was talking about, but when he noticed Viktor’s hair was now bare, he reached a hand up gingerly and patted the flower crown, the petals soft between his fingertips.

Distantly, Yuuri could hear Phichit snickering, followed by the soft shutter of his phone’s camera as he undoubtedly captured the moment, but he was entirely too focused on the fact that Viktor had given him his flower crown.

A blush rose to Yuuri’s cheeks when he noticed the fond look Viktor was wearing, silver strands spilling over his shoulders from his loosened ponytail, but he had to quickly remind himself that Viktor was not interested in him. At least not like that.

Chris’ words kept making an appearance at the forefront of his mind, dismissing the attention Viktor was giving him as harmless flirting. He’s never had a serious relationship; he’s waiting to find someone who really grabs his attention.

If Yuuri was certain of one thing, it was that he was definitely not the person Viktor was looking for. He was probably just a distraction.

“Uh.” Yuuri swallowed, averting his eyes for a moment, “Thanks, but it’s yours.”

When he reached his hands up again to gently remove it from his head, Viktor frowned and placed his hands over Yuuri’s, stilling his movements as he held it in place.

“It looks nice.” He repeated, glancing down to Yuuri’s glasses with a small smile, “It goes with your glasses too. Besides, I already have lots of these at home. What’s one more?”

Yuuri wanted to splutter, to say it was one more reminder of the success he’d had at yet another competition, that it was utterly ridiculous for him to walk out of the stadium with something that had been gifted to Viktor - especially something heavily associated with him winning.

But all Yuuri could manage was a weak protest, because his mind was far too busy focusing on how softly Viktor was holding his hands, how warm his palms were on his knuckles, and it wasn’t fair. Because Yuuri knew his heart was fluttering at the gesture, and the warmth was spreading through him as each second passed; but Viktor was fine. Cool, and collected, and as perfect as he always was, and Yuuri tried to push everything down, to act as unbothered as Viktor was.

After a moment, Viktor gave Yuuri’s hands a small squeeze before removing his own and taking a few steps back, seemingly in the hopes that Yuuri would decide covering the distance wasn’t worth it in order to return the flower crown.

“There.” Viktor grinned when Yuuri made no move to walk towards him, his head tilted to the side admiringly.

Yuuri parted his lips, another protest on his lips but it died when he saw the thoughtful expression dusting Viktor’s features. His eyebrows were furrowed slightly, the hints of a frown on his lips as his eyes softened and looked away from Yuuri.

“Yuuri, listen…” He began, rubbing the back of his neck almost nervously, and Yuuri felt his chest tightening as he took in the more serious look on Viktor’s face, “There’s something I need to tell –“

“-Vitya!” Whatever Viktor had been planning to say fell abruptly short when his very exasperated looking coach began to storm over, Yuri hot on his heels.

When Viktor didn’t turn around, and only rolled his eyes at Yuuri, Yakov yelled something that went straight over Yuuri’s head – although by the tone of it, he could tell it probably wasn’t anything along the lines of hey, I’d love to meet your new friend, I’m so glad you’re branching out to the other skaters, good job!

“I think you’re needed.” Yuuri said, his eyes no longer on Viktor, but instead fixed on his coach who was swiftly making his way towards them, getting closer by the second. If Yuuri was honest, Yakov Feltsman seemed like one of the more intimidating coaches, and if he could at all avoid getting on his bad side, he’d take the chance in a heartbeat.

“He’s fine.” Viktor said dismissively, waving a hand as though his annoyed coach was nothing more than a mild inconvenience. Apparently, Yakov didn’t share the same sentiment. He called out to Viktor once again, creases forming on his forehead and his back straightening as he drew closer.

Yuuri was chewing on his lower lip as he watched, tension building up inside him and Viktor finally seemed to notice, eyeing Yuuri with concern as he finally offered his coach a glance and frustratedly switched his attention between them.

With a sigh, he exchanged a stream of rapid Russian over his shoulder, deflating at whatever Yakov had said. A pout had formed on his lips when he offered Yuuri an apologetic look.

“I’m sorry, Yuri’s complaining that he wants to go back to the hotel.” Viktor explained, and Yuuri looked over to see his younger brother standing beside Yakov, his arms folded and his shoes scuffing the floor with a scowl.

“That’s okay.” Yuuri assured him with a warm smile, “It’s been a long day, we’ll probably be heading back soon too.”

“Can I text you later?” Viktor asked hopefully, and Yuuri still wasn’t used to the idea that Viktor wanted to talk to him, was actually asking him if it was okay – as if the answer could ever be no.

“Of course.” Yuuri tried to bite back his flustered smile, but it was in vain when Viktor was grinning at him brightly, something warm tugging at Yuuri’s heartstrings.

“Okay, great.” He beamed, rocking back and forwards on his feet for a moment before biting his lip and stepping towards Yuuri, wrapping his arms around him.

The gesture caught Yuuri off guard, his eyes widening as a small gasp escaped his lips. Not wanting to reject the gesture, he carefully wrapped his arms around Viktor too, all too aware of how warm his body was, and how secure he felt enveloped in their hug.

He mourned the loss of contact and heat when they pulled away a moment later, and Viktor turned to Phichit, also embracing him in a friendly hug before turning on his heel and waving to the two of them with a goodbye.

Friendly. That’s all it was. Viktor was just being a good sportsman.

“Oh my God, Yuuri.” Phichit’s excitement was clear in his tone, and Yuuri could see the grin he was wearing before he even turned to face him, “Am I a part of your fever dream? Or did that actually just happen?”

Gently removing the flower crown from his head, Yuuri held it reverently in his hands, rubbing his thumbs over the delicate petals with a fond smile, “I think so.”

“I’ll send you the pictures.” Phichit smirked, playfully nudging Yuuri’s side with his elbow, but Yuuri couldn’t find it in himself to roll his eyes. Really, he hadn’t expected anything less from him than to document the moment, but he couldn’t deny that it would be nice to have them to look back on.

All of them?”

“And the video.”