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“Why do we have to know this? That cruelty

has to exist to propel kindness into relief; that relief

must first imply pain?”

-- Ange Mlinko

 

I. Goddamn Room Service

Yuuri woke up sweaty, sticky, and completely surrounded by warmth. He blinked blearily, trying to chase the last of his drowsiness away – and then the closeness of another body registered, and Yuuri snapped to attention.

That was Viktor Nikiforov. He’d just slept with Viktor Nikiforov , and that was Viktor’s dick bumping against Yuuri’s thigh, and Viktor’s naked chest he was rubbing his face against. His face burned, and he wrenched himself away from Viktor’s arms, landing in a heap of soiled sheets.

Memories of the previous night began to filter in, and Yuuri’s panic steadily grew. He tasted bile at the back of his throat remembering how much he had enjoyed it, felt sick remembering how thoughtlessly he had declared his hatred of Viktor. It was absolutely impossible to deny what had happened; not with the burn at the end of his spine, the damning scratches on Viktor’s back, the trail of clothes from the doorway to the bed.

At the loss of warmth beside him, Viktor had begun to stir. Yuuri stared at him, horrified at the aftermath  of what could only be called ‘hate sex’, as Viktor sat up, rubbing sleep from his eyes. Then he stopped, eyes widening at the sight of Yuuri, naked, covered in semen and sprawled out at the foot of his bed.

Well , thought Yuuri, almost hysterically. At least I’m not the only one freaking out .

Last night he had assiduously avoided looking at Viktor, losing himself in the pleasure of other sensations instead: the smell of Viktor’s skin, the sound of his broken breathing, the slick slide of his dick in Yuuri’s ass. In the light of the early morning, however –

Viktor was achingly beautiful, silver hair offset by the morning sunlight, and the hard planes of his face and body made soft by sleep. He was just as naked as Yuuri, the graceful lines and dips of his shoulders and collarbones covered with vicious marks of Yuuri’s teeth from the previous night, red and purple against Viktor’s pale skin. Somewhere in Yuuri’s brain, past the agonizing awkwardness of this encounter, the leftover animal instinct that drove him last night began to purr. Viktor was beautiful like this, naked and covered in all sorts of marks that screamed of Yuuri’s presence.

Yuuri flushed, feeling the heat all the way down to his chest. This was not the sort of thing that he should be realizing about his greatest rival after a night of hatefucking.

Viktor looked to be at a loss, mouth hanging slightly open. He schooled his expression, seemed to marshal this thoughts, and before he could even begin to speak, panic had overtaken Yuuri and he all but sprinted to the bathroom.

“I – I just – I need to clean up,” he stammered over his shoulder, slamming the bathroom door closed behind him.

It was true, he did.

Semen had dried up into a disgusting crust on his stomach, and even though it took some time to clean it off, Yuuri stayed shut up in the bathroom longer than necessary, dreading the conversation waiting outside. To make matters worse, there wasn’t a towel in the bathroom, and as he tried to dry off as well as he could, Yuuri resigned himself to walking out naked.

Viktor had already put on pants and a t-shirt when Yuuri stepped out of the bathroom, and was setting down a tray of tea on the little breakfast nook of his hotel room. All of their clothes had been picked off the floor, and the room looked tidier. Viktor still looked shell-shocked, and Yuuri flushed again, embarrassed by the question he was going to have to ask.

“Your clothes are on that chair,” Viktor supplied, and Yuuri muttered his thanks, hurriedly getting  dressed in last night’s clothes. His mind stalled, however, when confronted by the ruin of his shirt.

He was still freaking out over this crisis, when Viktor said hesitantly: “I got you some genmaicha, if you wanted something to drink, before…” He trailed off.

Yuuri turned, confused. “Genmaicha?”

Viktor frowned, and asked carefully, “That is what you drink in the morning, right? I was going to order sencha instead, but then I remembered that you once mentioned in an interview that you preferred genmaicha in the morning.”

Yuuri tried to recall an interview where he had mentioned this; there’d been so many over the years that he couldn’t recall. There must have been an interview like that, though; Yuuri really did drink genmaicha in the morning. He used to have Mari-neechan mail genmaicha to Detroit before he found a Japanese grocery store that stocked it near the university.

The odds that Viktor had watched one of his interviews, however –

“You watched my interviews?” Yuuri asked numbly, accepting the cup from Viktor. Viktor blushed , and really the whole morning had been entirely overwhelming for Yuuri. Why would Viktor Nikiforov be watching trashy, trivial interviews about what kind of tea Yuuri drank in the morning?

“I like your skating,” Viktor admitted, scooping cherry jam into his own black tea. That was his preferred morning beverage; Yuuri knew that, something he hated himself for knowing. Because for months before the Junior World Championships where everything changed, Yuuri had taken his own tea with cherry jam even as his mother had laughed indulgently from the sidelines.

There must have been something in his expression, because Viktor turned defensive.

“I really do admire your skating. It’s beautiful, the way you move on ice. I’ve been following your career since you were a junior,” Viktor chuckled self-consciously. “Georgi used to tease me for it, a few years back.”

No matter how much Viktor spoke, it didn’t seem to be sinking in. His face was probably contorted into an unattractively baffled expression by now, and he could only watch helplessly as Viktor continued.

“I really wanted to speak to you, before. I tried once, when you were still a junior. But you seemed so unresponsive then, so I backed off, and when you went into seniors…”

Everyone knew how that story went, and it seemed that Viktor hadn’t needed last night’s confirmation of hate to know that Yuuri didn’t like him. An awkward silence descended between them, as both of them recalled exactly why they were both sitting in Viktor’s hotel room in Saitama, drinking tea in sweatpants while Yuuri was still shirtless and covered in love bites.

Yuuri wanted to avoid Viktor’s gaze, but he couldn’t.

There was a burning intensity in those cold, blue eyes, the question hanging heavy in the air between them. Yuuri willed Viktor not to say it, not to make it real; but when had Viktor ever obliged him? Yuuri felt the question rather than heard it; it had the same inevitable impact as falling on the ice after a doomed jump. He’d been waiting for this question for nearly ten years.

“Why do you hate me?”

Yuuri’s hands were shaking, and he set down his tea cup with a loud clatter.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. Never, in his wildest daydreams, had he ever expected that he’d have to answer these questions just hours after having sex with Viktor. He’d imagined saying those words on a podium. Taunting Viktor with the implication at a banquet – much like he did in Sochi or on the dance floor last night. But the quiet intimacy of waking together, Viktor’s thoughtful kindness even after Yuuri’s needless cruelty last night, Viktor’s inexplicable admiration of Yuuri that stretched back to the beginning of Yuuri’s career – Yuuri was confused and thrown off-balance, when before he had been unwavering in his resentment.

Viktor was still looking at him, expectant, and Yuuri refused to acknowledge how small it makes him feel, how petty.

He didn’t have to answer.

He refused to.

He’d given his body, his virginity, to this man last night, sacrificed years of hardship and brutal training just to catch up to Viktor even before that. He refused to give any more ground, refused to give Viktor another opportunity to hurt him.

Yuuri felt the tears come like they always did, and he angrily swiped at them. He hated this. He’d sworn not to cry over Viktor again, and he’d be damned if he ever looked weak in front of him again.

He got to his feet, steeling himself, only to realize that he was trembling.

“Do you have a shirt I could borrow?” Yuuri asked with as much dignity he could muster. His voice came out frigid and robotic, but Yuuri couldn’t care. He needed to leave. Everything felt surreal, like everything was happening at a distance and Yuuri’s senses were straining to keep him grounded.

“You still haven’t answered my question,” Viktor said quietly. He’d stood up too, and Yuuri resented Viktor’s extra height at that moment. He’d looked up to Viktor before and didn’t want to do it ever again.

“It doesn’t matter,” Yuuri snarled. “It was years ago, and it was never important enough to you that you’d remember.” Yuuri strode across the room to Viktor’s wardrobe, yanking it open and taking the first shirt he could find, pulling it on. Viktor had ruined his shirt last night; he could damn well take one of Viktor’s as a replacement.

“It’s clearly important if it still means something to you,” Viktor finally snapped back, slamming the wardrobe door shut. He braced his arm against it, cutting off Yuuri’s path to the door and crowding into him. Viktor’s arm trembled, and Yuuri could see him struggling to reign his anger in. He takes a deep, shuddering breath.

“I don’t know why you hate me so much,” Viktor said, quiet. “But if you tell me – if I knew why – maybe I could fix it.”

There was silence, and then a hysterical laugh bubbled its way up in Yuuri’s throat. It sounded cruel and mocking, even to Yuuri’s ears. It hurt. He never wanted to be a cruel man.

“It’s not something you can fix that easily.”

“Won’t you let me try?” Viktor pleaded, not missing a beat. Yuuri almost scoffed, but there was something in Viktor’s eye, something desperate and earnest. “Yuuri, I’m in –”

Before he could even finish his sentence, Yuuri pushed him away, furious.

“Don’t throw those words around lightly.” He pushed past Viktor and unearthed his shoes, shoving his feet in.

“I’m not,” Viktor protested. He watched helplessly as Yuuri tried to tie his laces and failed, swearing explosively in Japanese. Yuuri slumped to the floor. The tears hadn’t stopped since Viktor had started talking; Yuuri gave in to it finally, buried his face in his hands and sobbed. It was all too much. This, here, was all his dreams from before and all his confusion from after , but he couldn’t take it, he couldn’t understand anything anymore. Too much had happened in too little time, and it went by too fast for Yuuri to comprehend.

He barely noticed when Viktor sank to the floor beside him, a comforting weight. He turned to bury his face in Viktor’s shoulder. “I loved you,” Yuuri sobbed. “I worshipped you, and you treated me like nothing.”  He felt Viktor stiffen against him in shock, and Yuuri expected to feel a stab of vindictive pleasure. He felt nothing, instead.

“It was a long time ago, and I was just a fan – what would I have mattered to you? But you had already changed my life; from the moment I saw you I knew you were going to change my life. But you didn’t even remember.”

“Yuuri, what are you saying?” Viktor’s voice was hoarse and horribly confused. That only made Yuuri cry harder, and Viktor’s arm tightened around him. Yuuri didn’t want to tell him, didn’t want to admit to anything further than what he let slip, but he knew that he had to say something or he would never get another chance. Every sentence was punctuated by a sob, every breath a struggle to take in, but Yuuri needed to get this out, and get it out now. It was poison, and it had been swimming in his veins for too long.

“It was years ago. I wanted to skate like you. My parents knew, and that year when the Junior Grand Prix Final was in Tokyo, they had taken me to see you.” Yuuri refused to look at Viktor. “I had the poster, I was lined up to get it signed and everything. And then I met you.”

“What did I do?” Viktor whispered, horrified. “Yuuri, what did I do ?”

The tears had dried. All that was left was a dull emptiness. “You broke my heart. I worshipped you, and you broke my heart.”


 

 

II. Overheard at the World Championships

Chris is a wonderful friend, Viktor knows. He’s a man who doesn’t make friends easily, who charms many but shies away from casual intimacy for reasons that even he never really understood. It’s easier to present yourself as something easily digestible, and Viktor has always known how to work an audience. But Chris – he knew how to read Viktor’s silences, knew how to tell if Viktor was lying. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

“Viktor, you want something you know you’re never going to have. You need to give it up now. You’re practically begging for scraps as it is and Yuuri’s never going to love you back.”

Chris is a wonderful friend, but hearing the raw, unvarnished truth stings .

“I know!” Viktor only barely manages to keep himself from shouting, and he instantly feels guilty for the way Chris flinches in surprise at his anger. Viktor knows that he needs to keep this part of himself hidden away, to never speak of it. He knows it’s ugly; it’s his bitterness and disappointment, fury and desperation. Viktor doesn’t know how to deal with it, doesn’t want to deal with it. It makes him cry and flub his jumps: therefore, useless. So Viktor swallows it down and buries it, tries to smile again.

“’I’m sorry, Chris,” he tries again, forcing his voice to be calmer. “I just – I know what’s going on, okay? I understand how this works. But I can’t change what I want. If this is all I’m ever going to get, even if I can’t have anything else, then I’ll take it. It’s better than nothing, after all.”

“Is it?” Chris demands.

Viktor avoids his eyes and pushes past him towards the door. He doesn’t want to talk to Chris, doesn’t want to talk about this anymore. He’s bitten back these words, kept himself starved of all hope and stunted, because it would never work. Yuuri could never know, because Yuuri had made it clear that it would never happen.

Viktor wrenches open the door, and his heart stutters in his chest.

Just outside the door, clutching his gym bag so hard his knuckles are turning white, is Yuuri, who looks just as shell-shocked as Viktor feels. Chris, who had hurried to catch up with Viktor, barrels into him from behind, and Viktor crashes into Yuuri. Yuuri drops the bag, and the hallways echo loudly, damning Viktor to his humiliation.

There was no way that the sounds of their argument hadn’t carried beyond the closed door.

The three of them stare at each other in a horrified silence, until Viktor croaks out: “How much of that did you hear?”

Yuuri says nothing, but his eyes are wide and he’s shaking, which is answer enough.

Viktor shoves Chris out of the way and tugs Yuuri into the storage room, slamming the door closed and locking it. Yuuri’s small gasp of pain startles Viktor out of his panic, and he drops Yuuri’s wrist like he’s been burned. He’s never wanted to hurt Yuuri, and Viktor is ashamed to see that he’d gripped Yuuri’s wrist  hard enough that a thumb-shaped bruise was already starting to form on Yuuri’s skin. Yuuri hisses and rubs at the bruise, studiously avoiding Viktor’s gaze.

Neither of them says a word, and every second of uncertainty feels like choking to Viktor.

“You don’t need to say anything,” Viktor eventually blurts out. “I know you only ever wanted a casual thing; this is too much for me to ask from you. You can just pretend you didn’t hear a word –”

Why ?”

It’s the only word Yuuri says, but Viktor understands him anyway.

Why did he fall in love with Yuuri Katsuki? It seems like it’s been such a long time since it started, such a long time since Viktor had tried to deny it, but the reasons come up clear and true.

“You’re beautiful when you skate,” Viktor starts, voice still hoarse. “You have so many emotions on the  ice, like you’re opening yourself up for everyone to see. But when you leave the rink that window closes, and no one can ever tell what you’re thinking. That’s beautiful too, in its own way.”

“That’s not enough,” Yuuri snaps. He still refuses to look at Viktor. “That’s never enough for love.”

That stings, but Viktor takes a deep breath and plows on. “I know it’s not enough. But I want to get to know you. I want to hold your hand, I want to kiss you goodnight, I want to make you laugh and smile and make you happy. It feels like magic when you smile, like what’s making you smile is the most precious thing in the world.

“When you’re happy you look – like you feel it, in the deepest parts of your heart. When you’re on the ice you look like you’re feeling everything down to your bones. I want that.” Viktor’s voice breaks. “You’re the only one who’s made me feel anything this deeply. Even when you –” hurt me, leave me “—it’s more than anything I felt in so long.”

Viktor laughs, a small, broken sound. He must sound pathetic, but when he glances at Yuuri, Yuuri looks stunned.

“Me? I think you’re making a –”

“Don’t,” Viktor says sharply. “Don’t you dare try to make light of my feelings, Katsuki. I know you don’t feel anything back,” a hitch in his breath, “but even you wouldn’t be so cruel.”

Yuuri opens his mouth, shuts it again. It feels awful, coming clean. This is something Viktor’s held onto for years, something he’s mercilessly tried to crush ever since Yuuri had confessed his hate and demanded to be fucked in the same breath. Viktor hates it – hates himself for falling in love when Yuuri has only ever hated him, hates Yuuri for never explaining why. A tear falls to the ground, and in the stillness of a rundown storage room in a foreign city, both of them are frozen in shock.

“Oh,” Yuuri murmurs. “You’re crying.” He steps into Viktor’s space, and before Viktor can protest, Yuuri brushes Viktor’s hair away from his face. “You’re really crying.”

Yuuri’s hands cup his face, thumb brushing away his tears. Viktor cries harder, silently. If none of them makes a sound, neither of them says anything that meant anything real here – maybe Viktor could pretend, just once , that it was tenderness that made Yuuri’s hands so soft and warm against his skin.

Yuuri’s eyes are a gentle brown; they always have been. But now, there’s something in there that reminds Viktor of Yuuri’s graceful Ina Bauer. It’s something he’s never seen in the guarded tension that was Yuuri’s default face to the public, or in the wild hostility that made their nights together so passionate and punishing. Viktor could look into those eyes forever, but in that moment, it’s too much.

Viktor closes his eyes.

A brief exhale, and then there’s a touch on his lips, soft and chaste. They’ve never kissed like this before. All the kisses of the past were meant to hurt, meant to bruise or draw blood, and in those moments they had felt glorious. But on the flight home, when they were going their separate ways, the bruises on his lips, his neck, the scratches on his back – they hurt, bodily pain mixing with the ghosts of an aching heart.

This kiss felt like a caress.

“I need to think about this,” Yuuri said quietly when they break apart. “I just – I need time.”

For the first time, hope begins to unfurl in Viktor’s chest.

It was a chance. He’ll gladly take it.


 

III. Jumping to Conclusions: or Chapter 13 Fucked All of Us Up, or: Viktor Please Start Knocking Before You Enter

“Yuuri, I saw you –” Viktor pauses, sees the pills in Yuuri’s hands, and blanches. White-hot terror runs through Yuuri’s veins, but Viktor, after a moment, leaps into action.

Solnyshko , did I hurt you badly last night?” he rushes to his side, worried. “Last night was… amazing,” Viktor blushes, “but if you were hurt it was most definitely not worth it.”

Viktor must think they’re painkillers, Yuuri realizes. For his potentially sore ass. Yuuri shakes himself, mentally castigating himself for jumping to such baseless conclusions. What else could Viktor have thought they were? Viktor had warned him about a sore ass the night before, even before they started really getting into it, and even Yuuri knew what he was getting into when he -

He recalls what he said last night, and he blushes. He can’t believe he said that. Yuuri saying “Make me remember you when I do,” so confidently one night, and the next morning shaking in fear when Viktor finds him drinking painkillers?

Suddenly it’s hilarious, and Yuuri begins to laugh.

“You think these are painkillers?” Yuuri asks through his laughter, and only laughs harder at Viktor’s confused expression. Viktor starts to look affronted.

“You can hardly blame me,” Viktor mutters sullenly. “’Make me remember you’, he says; of course one could not hold back on the lovemaking.”

That only makes Yuuri laugh harder, his earlier anxiety forgotten. His ass, as expected, was sore that morning. It still twinged now, but not enough that he’d have to take painkillers. Just enough that he’s not likely to forget last night any time soon. The hickies are there too – stark across his neck, and this morning when he came down to breakfast Celestino only raised an eyebrow before commenting: “You’re not going to be able to hide that with your costume.”

His coach was probably judging him, but Yuuri hadn’t cared. It was a fantastic night.

“So, what are those pills for? Are you sick?” Viktor prods at the pillbox, amused by the poodle print. “Where did you get the box anyway? It looks just like Makkachin!”

“Phichit got it for me,” Yuuri says fondly. “My dog’s a poodle too, remember? He got it for me years ago, when I –” Yuuri stops mid-sentence, equal parts horrified and surprised. Horrified, at the realization that he was about to tell Viktor Nikiforov, of all people, about his anxiety disorder. Surprised, because of how easy the whole conversation seemed to feel.

“Yuuri?” Viktor prompts, head tilting in concern. Makkachin does the same thing, Yuuri recalls, and suddenly, he feels unspeakably fond of this man.

Instead of saying anything about the pillbox, Yuuri just draws Viktor in for a kiss. Viktor goes rigid in surprise at first, but melts into it, arms encircling Yuuri’s waist. It all feels so natural; nothing about being with Viktor feels forced or unwelcome. Somehow, Yuuri always knew this, even way back when they were still hurting each other terribly.

They break apart, and Viktor looks more than a little surprised -- but, Yuuri is cheered to see, not displeased. Yuuri gently tugs the pillbox from Viktor’s hands, bends down to get his water bottle. He has already decided to love Viktor. and It was about time he started to trust Viktor too.

“Phichit got me this box three years ago,” Yuuri begins, “because I hated seeing the prescription bottles for the meds my psychiatrist gave me. Of course, when I travel I need to bring along labelled medication, but I don’t like bringing them to the rink and letting people see. So –” Yuuri gestures to the box.

Viktor has gone quiet, whether in surprise or in deference to Yuuri’s story, Yuuri doesn’t care. He’s just grateful for the silence, the way Viktor lets him sort out his own thoughts in aborted half-sentences.

“It’s for my anxiety,” Yuuri finally manages. “I used to get these really awful panic attacks before competitions, and in my first senior GPF –”

“Oh,” Viktor breathes. “Is that why you messed up your short program in your junior debut?”

Yuuri had not forgotten that somehow, Viktor had walked into him crying his heart out in his junior debut at the JGPF. He wasn’t likely to forget. Who’d have thought, years ago, that the same man who spurred him on with hate and spite would be a man that Yuuri’s heart would call beloved?

Yuuri only nods, and Viktor says nothing. He just lets Yuuri lean against his side as Yuuri swallows down his pills, basking in the companionable silence. Yuuri wants to stay here forever, wants to rest his head on Viktor’s shoulder and unburden himself, secret by secret, to Viktor’s capable hands. He’s never wanted that before, and the strength of that desire surprises him. But it’s Viktor. Viktor has always surprised him; why should it be any different now that Yuuri had admitted he was in love?

“Thank you for telling me,” Viktor whispers into Yuuri’s hair. “You really don’t have to tell me anything if you’re not comfortable.”

“That’s alright,” Yuuri murmurs. The smile, when it comes, feels easier than it has felt for years. “If feels right, with you.”