Viktor doesn’t remember the first time he met Yuuri Katsuki.
He’s tried, wracked his brains over and over again, poured over the absent memories long into the night until his head is pounding and the first light of morning has begun to creep over the horizon. But there’s nothing there. Just an absent, empty space where the memories should be, the incident gone and forgotten from his mind almost as soon as it happened.
Yuuri has told him of course. Every sordid detail, every word, every expression, every gesture. He knows the story now better than anyone but Yuuri himself, knows and regrets. But his own memories of the incident still remain elusive, as though they might never have existed at all.
Viktor doesn’t remember the first time he met Yuuri Katsuki.
This however, is what Viktor does remember…
Viktor was fifteen and he had just made history.
It was his last Junior Grand Prix Final, his last season as a Junior and the pressure had been higher than ever. Despite his age he was already rapidly gaining fame and popularity, his skating skills making him stand out leagues ahead of all his competitors. Before the Grand Prix Series had even begun, the expectation was that he would finish the final with a gold.
Viktor loved to surprise the audience and he never wanted to conform to expectations so he did one better. He broke a world record instead.
It was the perfect way to start off his final season as a Junior and Viktor had felt a great swell of pride as his scores had been announced, proclaiming him the skater with the highest combined score in Junior Grand Prix history. It might have seemed effortless out on the ice but hundreds of hours of practice and pain and pushing himself to his limits and beyond had gone into the performances that had scored him such a high honour.
Both of the routines that had won him the medal had been tailor made for him. Two opposing themes and two opposing programs, one hard and cold like ice and the other full of love and warmth. Complimenting each other but different all the same. Viktor knew a lot about ice, it was what he had given his life to after all, but it was the second program that was his favourite, the free skate routine. A routine about love, love filled with warmth and light with the power to break through even the harshest of winters and the coldest of hearts. Viktor didn’t know much about love himself but he thought that one day, he might like to.
Yakov had given him almost free reign over the routine which was one of the reasons why Viktor loved it so much. He wasn’t allowed to choreograph himself yet - although Yakov had promised that next year he could and Viktor would do it anyway even without his new coach’s permission - but he had been given the freedom to make the routine his own. Out on the ice he had poured his heart and soul into the performance, tried to make the audience feel what he wanted them to feel. Skating was a language within itself, each routine told a story and Viktor was the best storyteller of them all.
The costume was one that Viktor had chosen for himself as well, tight and black with a flare at the side like a skirt. The almost feminine grace complimented his figure well, still slender and willowy and yet to fill out the way that Yakov had warned him that he one day would. Some had commented that it was an odd choice, especially with the long hair that had been Viktor’s trademark ever since he stepped out onto the ice, but he didn’t care. Beauty only came with creativity and the only way to sustain that was to surprise the audience, to defy their expectations.
And so Viktor skated the routine the way he wanted to, in the costume that he had chosen and put his soul into every step because it was what he did and what he loved and all he ever needed in his life. And in return he had been rewarded with a gold medal and a world record that made all his work and pain and devotion to skating above all else worth it.
Yakov’s ex-wife had once told him that he would have to sell his soul to the ice to win and Viktor had done it without hesitation and never once looked back. He was fifteen and on top of the world, living each day to the fullest and riding high on the feeling of slick ice beneath his skates and a gold medal around his neck.
After the competition was over he headed outside, making his way back to the hotel through the main entrance so that he could greet his fans as he left. A huge crowd was gathered in front of the doors and they all started to cheer and scream as soon as they saw him, each one begging for even a scrap of his attention.
Viktor loved meeting his fans, love the enthusiasm and support they gave him. Despite Yakov’s protests he tried to interact with them as much as possible, to give a little back to show his gratitude. Signing autographs and taking pictures after a competition was exhausting but it was something he loved to do all the same. Something he had done a thousand times before and would do a thousand times again.
Moments like that all seem to blur into each other in his memory, a hundred faces seen and forgotten in a handful of minutes as he worked his way down the line, signing posters and taking pictures and exchanging a few words and a smile with each fan as he went. Just as it had always been.
Except this time it was different. It was so very different because something had happened that day, something that it would take him years to understand and the rest of his life futilely trying to remember. A single moment like a pebble dropped into a pond, one tiny thing that created ripples reaching out further than the eye could see, ripples that became waves that became tsunamis.
But in that moment Viktor simply carried on as normal because he couldn’t see and didn’t understand and it would be many, many years before he did. In that moment, Viktor was fifteen and blissfully unaware of how drastically the path of his life had just changed forever.
Viktor was seventeen and he was hiding.
It was his second season in the senior division and Yakov had been yelling at him again, something about the last-minute changes to his short program, although Viktor hadn’t really been listening. Yakov was the best coach that he had ever had but sometimes he just didn’t understand Viktor’s impulsive need to do whatever his instincts told him to, both on and off the ice.
So instead of listening to the irate yet well-intentioned ranting, Viktor had wandered off into the stadium with a bad excuse and an airy smile, ducking out of sight as soon as he could and letting the complex maze of corridors lead him further and further away from the crowds. Despite loving performing and loving the attention that it brought him, sometimes it was nice to be alone for a while.
After a few minutes his path took him deep into the bowels of the stadium, far enough away that he was sure no-one would be able to find him. The corridors of the inner stadium were long and twisting, branching out at every turn and growing more and more deserted as he wandered further into their depths.
After another few minutes of aimless wandering Viktor decided to turn back. In his musings, he hadn’t been paying much attention to where he had been walking and Yakov would kill him if he got lost and missed the start of the short programs. There was no-one to ask directions from, he hadn’t spotted another soul for nearly a full minute and the halls were almost eerily silent, the part of the stadium he found himself in clearly an area that had fallen almost into disuse.
It was then that he heard it.
A muffled sob, sounding jarringly loud in the otherwise quiet of the deserted corridor. A sound of complete and abject misery that tugged on Viktor’s heartstrings and spiked his curiosity in the same instant. Concerned, he followed the noise, another sob quickly following the first until the sound of continuous crying filled the air, the sobs only broken by the occasional hitching breath or quiet sniff. The sounds seemed to be coming from one of the rooms branching off the corridor that he was standing in, the door slightly ajar and offering the barest sliver of a view into the room beyond.
Walking up to the door on light feet Viktor peered into the room, trying to make out the source of the crying. From what he could see the room was an old storage room, piles of dusty boxes and assorted junk scattered across the floor and stacked up around the walls. But the source of the noise was hidden just out of sight, coming from a corner out of Viktor’s view.
The door creaked softly as Viktor pushed it inwards and he winced a little at the sound, hoping it hadn’t been noticed. Thankfully the noise seemed to have gone unheard by the figure curled up in the corner of the room, head resting on his knees with his face buried into the fabric of his skating costume, full-body sobs rocking him as he cried.
The figure sounded young, voice high and unbroken. He looked young too, slight frame seemingly dwarfed by the size of the room. Soft, dark hair covered his head, slicked back but with the strands at the front starting to come apart from their rigid style and fall forward to frame the face beneath.
Suddenly the figure moved, swiping a hand under his eyes to clear away the tears that were still falling and his face was revealed for the first time. Large-eyed and innocent looking, traces of puppy-fat still giving him a hint of childish roundness. The boy couldn’t have been older than thirteen or fourteen, Viktor would have guessed younger if it hadn’t been for the very obvious skating costume that he was wearing. Presumably he was one of the juniors. Their short programs had just finished and it wasn’t unusual for the pressure and expectation to get to some of the younger skaters. Viktor remembered vividly how utterly terrifying his own junior debut had been, even if he had never let it show on his face.
What made the situation unusual however was the fact that the boy was crying alone, so far away from the rest of the stadium and with no coach or parent there to comfort him. It made Viktor want to reach out, to put a comforting arm around him and let the boy cry into his shoulder until he felt better, the way that Makkachin let Viktor cry into his fur when he was at his worst.
Viktor almost reached out but stopped himself just in time, pulling back before he could make any move to step forward. He wasn’t good with people crying in front of him, he never had been and he had no idea how to offer comfort. The situation at hand was completely out of his depth and instead of walking closer he backed away, closing the door as silently as he could behind him so as not to alert the room’s sole occupant to the fact that he had been spotted.
It was probably better that way, he reasoned to himself. Yakov had told him many times before that he had a bad habit of putting his foot in his mouth and Viktor knew that he was most likely right. Entering the room would have inevitably made the situation much worse and with how sad and scared the boy inside had looked Viktor couldn’t imagine he would be grateful for the intrusion.
Instead he walked away, heading back to the main stadium to find Yakov again before the senior section began and trying to put the mysterious crying boy out of his mind.
That resolve only lasted until the end of the short programs.
Viktor was set to skate last, his position at the top of the scoreboard deciding his placement as the final skater. During the qualifying competitions he had scored the highest of all the finalist, winning both his competitions, something he knew some of the older skaters resented.
When it was finally his turn to take to the ice he got the loudest cheer of them all, the crowd making it very clear who they were most excited to see. Waving in acknowledgement, he skated out into the centre of the rink to begin his routine, taking up his starting position and letting the familiar feeling of weightlessness flood through him as he began to block out everything but the memory of music and movement to prepare for his skate.
The routine was one he had choreographed himself. A dark waltz with music to match, powerful like a demand, like a challenge. A piece designed for two but skated to by one as Viktor crafted his story with every slide of his blades. The routine was a dance with an invisible partner, an invisible rival matching his every move as he told the story of a battle that was as loving as it was fierce. Each of his moves was half complete, made whole only by the phantom partner that existed solely in his mind.
The design and concept for the routine was unique and the crowd ate it up, roaring their approval as he skated and breaking into enthusiastic cheers and whistles as he finally brought the program to a close, feeling the burn in his muscles from a satisfying skate complete once again. After holding his final position for a few seconds he allowed himself to relax, soaking up the praise from the audience who were on their feet, still cheering their approval.
Raising a hand he waved to the crowd in front of him before turning around to acknowledge the ones behind, a smile bright on his face.
It was then that he saw him.
A boy. The same boy, the boy he had seen crying in a deserted room such a short time ago. Far across the rink, half concealed in the shadows of the stands and surrounded by other spectators. But for some reason he seemed to stand out even in the chaos of the crowd. Standing perfectly still and watching Viktor with an unreadable expression on his face, eye serious and so different to the misery that they had been filled with less than an hour previously.
Viktor could feel his hand falter slightly as his eyes widened at the sight. It was unexpected and surprise sparked through him, overlaid with a deep sense of curiosity.
Before he had time to process the sight the boy turned away and disappeared into the throng of the crowd but Viktor knew it had been more than a figment of his imagination. It had been the same boy, he was sure of it.
Without seeing the boy again Viktor knew he probably would have forgotten about the incident in the storage room over time. He had a reputation for being a little forgetful, a little scatter-brained, after all. But now that he had seen the boy twice, both in places that he had no reason to be in and with no context for his presence there, he was intrigued.
That night in the hotel Viktor searched for the boy online, determined to find out more. The costume he had been wearing almost guaranteed him to be one of the junior skaters and Viktor found a listing of those competing in the Junior Prix with relative ease, narrowing the results down until he finally came face to face with a picture of the boy that had caught his eye that day.
Yuuri Katsuki. A Japanese skater competing in the Junior Grand Prix for the first time, reasonably well known in his home country but a nobody on the international stage. The Prix was his first big competition and, according the information that accompanied the picture, he had ruined his short program that day, not unusual for a brand-new skater competing internationally for the first time. It would certainly explain the crying that Viktor had seen earlier. If the score that the article listed for the young Japanese skater were true he had failed his routine and failed it badly.
However, that still didn’t explain his presence in the rink so soon after, standing half-hiding and almost out of sight as he watched Viktor skate. Maybe he was a fan? Viktor knew a lot of younger skaters looked up to him and watched his routines to find inspiration for their own. Maybe that was what Yuuri Katsuki had been doing?
Regardless of his reasons for being there, Viktor was still interested. He felt drawn to the boy, an invisible pull urging him on. Something in the way that he had looked, the way that he had watched Viktor so intently, the way that he had cried alone only when there was no-one there to hear him. Despite now knowing a little more information, Viktor was still intrigued by the other boy and his interest, once gained, was a very hard thing to shake.
The next day the interest was still very present and his impulsive curiosity demanded to know more. Skipping out on last minute practicing before the free skate he stole away from where the rest of the seniors were warming up, sneaking out to the rink where the Junior free skates were about to take place. Yakov would inevitably yell at him for it later but Viktor couldn’t bring himself to care.
When he entered the rink, shoulders hunched and trying to make himself as unnoticeable as possible as he attempted to blend in with the crowd, he spotted him immediately. All of the juniors were out on the ice for their final warm up before the competition began and he was right in the midst of them all, gliding round the rink into a spread eagle with a look of the utmost concentration on his face.
He didn’t look nervous like Viktor had expected him to after discovering how the boy had failed his program the day before. Instead he looked determined, more focused than any of the other skaters out on the ice.
As Viktor mused over the new information the announcer spoke over the loudspeaker, calling for the other skaters to exit the rink and leaving the boy – Yuuri he now knew – alone on the ice. Quickly Yuuri skated over to the barrier, handing his jacket to an older Japanese man who Viktor assumed must be his coach, before hurrying back to the centre of the rink to prepare himself to skate.
After a few seconds of silence the melody rang out clear in the quiet of the stadium, the soft notes of a piano filling the air as Yuuri moved, his eyes closed as he glided backwards, every line of his body melting into the music.
Yuuri Katsuki might have messed up his short program the day before but watching him skate for the first time, Viktor never would have guessed it. Yuuri’s eyes were closed as he spun across the ice with a look of serene grace on his face and every inch of him looked like it was lost in the music. More than that, the music looked like it was coming from him, like he was creating the notes with the movements of his body, the perfect way he captured the melody in his dance.
It was fascinating, watching Yuuri skate. After seeing him cry the day before Viktor wasn’t sure what he had expected but it certainly wasn’t what he was seeing. Yuuri surprising him again with the grace and poise with which he moved, emotions seeming to pour out of him and onto the ice, his soul bare. It was like he was a completely different person to the one Viktor had first seen and Viktor found that he was unable to look away.
With the critical part of his mind, Viktor could see the tiny imperfections in the routine, the places where the other skater fell technically short. But it was his presentation that was so captivating, leaving everyone watch in awe and Viktor was no exception.
If Yuuri had interested Viktor the day before, he fascinated him now. There was something about his skating, something that drew Viktor in. As the routine came to a close, Yuuri held his final position for a few seconds before the last ringing notes of the music died away and he finally let himself relax. Bending over and gasping for breath with the exhaustion that he finally allowed himself to show before raising his face back up to smile at the crowds around him, all of whom were cheering their approval.
His smile was beautiful, lighting up his face with a level of joy that Viktor had almost forgotten it was capable to feel out on the ice.
Despite enjoying the performance, Viktor didn’t stick around to see the scores announced. He had his own free skate to prepare for and he couldn’t afford to be absent for any longer, but even without seeing them he already knew what they would be. After so many years of skating he was a good judge of quality and there was no doubt in his mind that Yuuri Katsuki must have scored highly. The skill of his footwork and the artistry of his performance more than made up for the technical weakness of his jumps and Viktor knew that it would reflect in his scores.
There was an innate beauty to the way that he skated, open and raw and honest. Viktor might only have seen a tiny fraction of his work but he already knew that Yuuri Katsuki was a very special skater, fascinating in a way that few things were.
When he returned to Russia after the Final was over, he searched for Yuuri Katsuki again, reading over the information carefully as he learned more about the other boy. Fourteen years old and from a small Japanese town called Hasetsu. The information was sparse and videos of Yuuri skating were few and far between which frustrated Viktor to no end. He wanted to see more, wanted to try and work out what made Yuuri’s skating so unique.
The other skater had poured his heart out onto the ice and everyone in the audience, including Viktor, had been touched by the depth of the emotion that he displayed.
Viktor couldn’t get it out of his mind, even as the season wore swiftly on. Another gold at the Europeans was added to his collection a few months later and yet another at Worlds shortly after that, Yakov smiling proudly from the side-lines as it was hung shining around his neck.
After the ceremony he collected his things and prepared to leave, meeting Yakov in the corridor. Despite the season officially being over there would be no rest and they both knew it. Viktor was on top of the skating world at only eighteen and he needed to work hard if he wanted to maintain it.
As he talked to his coach, Viktor’s eye was caught by a flash of movement in the corridor, blue eyes locking onto brown as he noticed the figure who had stopped in the hallway a few meters away from him and turned to look back at where Viktor and Yakov were standing.
It was Yuuri Katsuki.
Viktor hadn’t seen him since the Grand Prix Final, although he had watched the other boy’s performance at Junior Worlds on one of the televisions set up all around the backstage area as he prepared for his own skate. Just like at the Junior Grand Prix Final a few months previously, his skating had been enthralling, emotive and unique. The shaky technical elements of his routines had ensured the medal around his neck was bronze rather than gold but technical score could be improved over time.
Viktor opened his mouth, wanting to call out to the other skater. But before any words could get past his lips Yuuri had turned away, dragging a suitcase along behind him and disappearing into the crowds that were still flooding the corridor, hiding him from view.
Yakov shot him a questioning look when he turned back around but Viktor shrugged it off with a few light-hearted words. It was a busy place after all and it was likely that Yuuri hadn’t even seen him, that Viktor had imagined the brief few moments of eye contact. It didn’t matter much. From the way Viktor had seen Yuuri skate he was sure that he would be seeing the boy at plenty of competitions in the future and another opportunity would present itself eventually.
Viktor was eighteen and Yuuri Katsuki had caught his attention for the first time. And, while he might not know it yet, he would never look away again.
Viktor was nineteen and he was running.
There were parts of fame that he enjoyed but the constant presence of the paparazzi wasn’t one of them. As the years had gone by his fame had continued to grow and after such a streak of wins attached to his name, words like ‘legend’ were already beginning to be tossed around by his fans and the press alike. Viktor was proud of what he had achieved and he usually loved the attention, interacting with his fans, doing interviews, smiling for the camera. But sometimes it got a little overwhelming and the constant feeling of being pursued whenever he was at a competition wasn’t a pleasant one.
After the medal ceremony it took him a long time to extract himself from the hoard of press and reporters so when he had seen the group of paparazzi in the hallway, lurking around and waiting for an opportunity, he had ducked away as quickly as he could. Dodging and weaving throughout the crowd and trying to remain undetected. A difficult feat when his bright white and red skating jacket and distinctive silver hair was recognisable to anyone who had even the vaguest knowledge of figure skating.
After a few seconds he spotted a small side corridor that looked reasonably empty and he hurried into it swiftly, spotting the door marked with the familiar international symbol for bathroom and ducking into it gratefully. Still distracted by his desire to avoid the press he didn’t notice the body in front of him before it was too late, the two of them colliding and the smaller one stumbling back from the force of the impact.
It was Yuuri Katsuki. Viktor had grown again since he had seen the boy last, gaining another few centimetres in height and his shoulders and chest broadening out in a way that threw off his balance when he was skating frustratingly for the first few months until he had forced himself to get used to it. Yuuri on the other hand hadn’t seemed to have had his first growth spurt yet, still small and delicate with the round face of a child. His wide brown eyes were at a level with Viktor’s chest and it was kind of adorable, the way that he had to look up to meet Viktor’s gaze, frantically adjusting his glasses from where they had been knocked crooked from the collision.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t see…” Yuuri began but the words trailed off as his gaze landed on Viktor’s face, eyes widening as they took in who was standing before him.
It had been a year since Viktor had seen Yuuri in person last, at the previous World Championships when their eyes had met so briefly in the corridor. Since then, Viktor had followed Yuuri’s career with interest, watching him perform at the following Junior Grand Prix Final and again at the Junior World Championships that had just ended.
In the Junior Grand Prix Final Yuuri had fallen trying to complete a quad toe loop and it had saddened Viktor to see, the technical failure still dragging down the score of a skater who performed with such artistry. Then at the Junior World Championships Yuuri had forgone quads altogether and finally won the gold that he so rightly deserved.
And now he was here, in a deserted bathroom and looking up at Viktor in frozen silence. Viktor had frozen for a minute too and he was sure the surprise at the unexpected encounter was showing on his face. Yuuri Katsuki had been elusive at all the competitions that he attended and Viktor hadn’t expected to run into him here of all place. But he was never one to waste a good opportunity when it presented itself.
“You’re the junior gold medallist aren’t you? Yuuri Katsuki?” he asked, hoping to break the silence that was rapidly becoming uncomfortable. He knew who Yuuri was already of course but it would seem a little strange to mention that, seeing as they had never officially spoken before.
A light flush of colour appeared across Yuuri’s cheeks and he blinked rapidly behind the thick frames of his glasses, looking a little startled but still not making any move to respond other than a slight nod. The silence dragged out again and Viktor could feel the discomfort growing.
After seeing Yuuri skate he had been intrigued, had wanted to talk to the other boy. But there had never been a good time, never the right opportunity to catch him. Now that Yuuri had won gold in the juniors, Viktor was sure he would soon make the leap into the senior division and he was excited. Watching Yuuri was fascinating, competing against him would be more so. Now that they were here together he wanted to talk to the boy properly for the first time rather than just watching him through a screen but Yuuri was making no move to speak first and Viktor wasn’t quite sure what to say.
Briefly he ran one hand through his hair in a habitual nervous gesture as he tried to think of something else to say. The feel of it still surprised him, the shortness of the strands unfamiliar even months after they had been cut. Part of him still missed his long hair but another part of him knew that it had been time for a change. Each year it was getting harder and harder to surprise the audiences and the hair had been his trademark for so long that it has caused quite a stir when he had appeared in public at the start of the season with it cut short. Reinventing his image was a good way to keep people on their toes, to keep them from getting bored and to save himself from the same dilemma.
Turning back to the boy in front of him he smiled, trying to appear as friendly as possible.
“I saw your free skate today. It was a good performance and your choice of theme was very bold.” Viktor tried again. Skating was a good topic to start with. Skating was safe, something familiar that linked the two of them together. “You won without quads as well which was impressive since most skaters in your age bracket can already perform them in competition.”
It had been something that had caught Viktor’s eye when he had watched Yuuri winning gold that day. A routine that relied entirely on the artistry of the performance rather than pushing for technical marks in the way that was so common nowadays was very unusual and a risky move to take. But one that had clearly paid off.
Yakov had always tried to drill into him the importance of presentation above anything else but Viktor had never really listened to him. There had never been any complaints about his presentation before and jumps were new and exciting and he could still surprise the audience every time he mastered a new one. But, especially when he had been a junior, Yakov had scoffed at his desire to go straight for quads as soon as he was able.
In his final junior season he had spontaneously added a quad flip to his routine, a move that had set off Yakov’s ire as he had expressly banned Viktor from doing any quads until he was a senior. ‘A good skater should be able to win without using fancy jumps to distract the audience from what really matters.’ he had once said but, as usual, Viktor hadn’t bothered to heed the advice. It had been his final season as a junior and he had wanted to make an impression, a feat that he had certainly accomplished.
But it was interesting, to see Yuuri Katsuki pull of something that Viktor had never before attempted. Something that Yakov had pushed him to do but that he had refused to comply with. Absently, Viktor thought that Yakov probably would have liked to have Yuuri Katsuki as a student.
His final program had impressed Viktor and his choice to compete without quads even more so. But Viktor also remembered the way that Yuuri had fallen when trying to jump a quad toe loop just a few months previously. His presentation might be flawless but he was still being let down by the technical aspects of his routines and he couldn’t dodge that forever. Performing and winning without quads might be impressive in the junior division but as soon as Yuuri became a senior, his lack of jumping ability would be a serious weakness.
Viktor had spent a year being fascinated by Yuuri Katsuki, by the way the other boy skated. He wanted to see Yuuri do more, wanted to see what the other boy was like when his full potential was unlocked and there was nothing holding him back. They would be competing in the same division soon and it was something Viktor definitely wanted to witness. He was a senior skater, renowned for his advanced jumping ability and it was something he would be able to help with.
“I saw your performance at the last Grand Prix.” he told Yuuri, who was still staring at him in silence, face unreadable and eyes slightly narrowed behind the thick frames of his glasses.
“Your balance was off on the landing to your quad toe loop, it’s why you fell. You need to work on finding your centre during jumps if you’re going to compete in the senior division.”
A Yuuri Katsuki who could jump with the same skill as he completed his step sequences would surely be a force to be reckoned with and it would certainly bring excitement into the skating world that had been fading little by little for so long.
But instead of replying or acknowledging the words at all Yuuri instead glared at Viktor, an expression that took him by surprise, and pushed past the older boy, storming out of the room and slamming the door shut behind him. For a few seconds Viktor just blinked in shock at the shut door, confusion drowning out everything else.
Quickly he ran back over what he had said, trying to work out what could have elicited the reaction. Briefly he considered that maybe Yuuri had misunderstood him. English was neither of their first languages after all and mistakes were easy to make. But from the interviews he had watched, the Japanese skater seemed very proficient in the language even if his accent was unmistakable as that of a non-native speaker. And after years of having the frustrating language drilled into his head by an endless stream of coaches and teachers in order to compete internationally, Viktor knew that he was proficient too.
Ruling out a language barrier, Viktor went back over the conversation in his mind again, trying to work out what could possibly have caused such a strong reaction. Nothing stood out to him, none of his intentions or words had been aimed to anger, not even close.
He had just wanted to speak to Yuuri, to talk to him about the passion they both shared and try and help prepare him for the jarring leap that he was about to make between the levels of junior and senior skating.
Maybe it was something to do with Viktor’s status as a rising legend in the skating world? A lot of the younger skaters got nervous when talking to him, although none of them had reacted like Yuuri before. It was possible for him to get on with skaters his junior, he knew. One Swiss boy he had met after the European Championships that year stood out in particular. Christophe Giacometti, who had made his senior debut in the World Championships that had just concluded. After their brief meeting during the Europeans he had stuck close to Viktor during the Worlds and they had found that they got on surprisingly well.
When he had planned to talk to Yuuri Katsuki he had always assumed it would be similarly easy. What he hadn’t bet on was Yuuri refusing to speak to him, past a brief few words before he recognised who Viktor was, and then storming out of the room seemingly unprovoked.
Yuuri Katsuki only grew more mysterious with every meeting. Viktor still wanted to talk to him, to get to know him, but the conversation had thrown him. Even after thinking it over he still couldn’t work out what he could possibly have done wrong, and yet Yuuri had seemed to react to something all the same. Each time they met the other boy seemed to become more and more of a mystery.
Viktor was nineteen and for some reason Yuuri Katsuki seemed to hate him. And he had no idea why.
Viktor was twenty and he was losing the ability to surprise the audience anymore.
They still turned out in droves to watch him skate, still cheered and gasped and clapped furiously at all his routines as he pushed himself further and further, each new program completely different from the last and unique in every way. But the challenge of the sport that had driven him so much in his earlier years was fading as he pulled further and further ahead of everyone he competed against and the audience were beginning to notice it too.
During the Olympics he had proudly represented his country out on the ice but before he had even taken one step out onto the rink the whispers were already circulating that it would be a guaranteed win. Viktor loved winning, loved the thrill of victory but only when it was well earned. The gold medal that he had won at the most prestigious competition of any skater’s careers he was more proud of than he could say but winning it had almost felt like going through the motions.
He was a performer and he needed to be able to keep surprising the audience if he wanted to keep inspired, to keep performing. Inspiration hadn’t left him yet but he could feel it begin to drop, little by little, year by year and he was terrified of the moment when it would fade away completely. Not now, not for many years yet but if everything remained the same eventually it would. He had already sold his soul to the ice and the thought of a life without it didn’t bare thinking about. Losing inspiration was the most sure-fire way to fall into a slump that many skaters never recovered from and Viktor knew that he couldn’t let that happen.
It seemed that the other skater’s didn’t seem to share Viktor’s problem however. Chris had rapidly risen up the ranks in senior skating and Viktor was beginning to get used to having him around. It was nice, to have someone to talk to at the competitions without the pressures of either being resented as he was by the older skaters or idolised as he was by the younger ones. Or at least, by most of the younger ones. Chris was a notable exception. Yuuri Katsuki was another.
Ever since their meeting in the bathroom a year previously Viktor had purposefully kept his distance, trying to puzzle the other skater out. Something he had said or done had driven the other boy away and he couldn’t approach him again until he had figured out what it was so as not to make the same mistake twice. It frustrated Viktor, that he still had no idea what could possibly have happened to cause Yuuri to storm off without a word.
Despite what had passed between them, Viktor still followed Yuuri’s career closely, made far easier by the fact that they were finally competing in the same division. Just like Chris, Yuuri had risen through the ranks as well. Fifth place in his first ever Grand Prix Final was nothing to look down on and a Bronze in the subsequent World Championships finally placed them on the podium together for the first time.
Standing on the podium with Yuuri and Chris sent a little thrill of excitement sparking through Viktor, something he hadn’t felt even while skating that day. No-one was surprised when he had won the gold, they never seemed to be anymore much to Viktor’s chagrin. But they were pleasantly surprised by the sudden rise through the ranks of the previous Junior World Champion, a Japanese skater who had made a distinguished senior debut and who was starting to make a real name for himself in the skating world. Not as a distinguished a senior debut as Viktor’s own had been but impressive all the same.
It was a feeling that Viktor missed. The drive, the desperation to prove himself, to always be better. While nothing had come without work, winning for him had become easy in a way that it was never supposed to be and he admired Yuuri all the more for just how hard he struggled for the medals that he won. The challenge, the desperation, clawing his way up the ranks competition by competition and routine by routine. Never boring because he still had so much left to do and so much left to prove and people watched him because they wanted to see it when it happened. Viktor wanted to see it when it happened.
Looking down at Yuuri as they stood together on the podium at the World Championships, he wondered what the other boy was thinking. Despite keeping his distance he had spent a lot of time watching Yuuri but he still couldn’t seem to figure the other skater out, couldn’t seem to work out what was going on behind the brown eyes that were always glaring at him so intensely.
After watching Yuuri closely, Viktor knew that he seemed to be the only one that that particular expression was ever turned on. Around the press Yuuri seemed a little shy, a little withdrawn but earnest and honest in all his answers. Around his fans he seemed to take the same approach. After winning his title as Junior World Champion an established fanbase had begun to grow and Viktor had watched Yuuri interact with a few of them the day before, stuttering a little over his words and blushing slightly at some of the praise they tossed his way but taking the time to speak to each and every one of them all the same. It was endearing and Viktor respected him all the more for it.
And outside of the press and the fans, Viktor had caught a glimpse of the Yuuri that must exist in the privacy of his life away from the cameras. At the competition that had just concluded Yuuri’s coach had been present just as he always was and along with him was another dark-skinned boy, a few years younger than Yuuri and one who seemed to be stuck permanently to his side. Viktor had seen the other boy at competitions before, not as a competitor although he vaguely remembered overhearing somewhere that he was a skater too, only still in the junior division.
The Yuuri that existed around the other boy was very different to the Yuuri that Viktor had seen anywhere else. Tension that he hadn’t even realised the other skater was holding until it was gone always drained out of Yuuri’s frame whenever his friend was near and it was because of said boy that Viktor had heard Yuuri laugh for the first time, a joyful sound that seemed to brighten up the entire room. Those stolen glimpses that Viktor had caught were more than enough to show him that there was a very different Yuuri Katsuki hidden under the glares that always seemed to be levelled his way and it only served to fascinate him more.
Yuuri Katsuki was a talented skater with the potential to do great things and the fierce drive to turn it into a reality. He struggled to win but his victories were all the sweeter for it. He was shy in public but still endearingly polite and earnest. Around a boy that Viktor knew must be his friend, he was quietly, privately happy and his laugh would bring warmth to even the coldest of winters.
And yet when Viktor looked down on him from his position on the podium, Yuuri was glaring at him with narrowed eyes, the expression on his face unmistakable. An expression that seemed to be reserved solely for Viktor and an expression that was completely undeserved. There was nothing Viktor had ever done to earn the treatment, to be singled out in such a way by the skater that he became more and more fascinated with as each season passed.
There must be some reason, some cause, some logic behind it but the truth of it remained as elusive as ever. Locked away inside Yuuri’s head and not for the first time Viktor wished that he was able to know the other skater’s thoughts.
Viktor was twenty and Yuuri Katsuki was a frustrating, fascinating, intriguing mystery. A mystery that Viktor was determined one day to solve.
Viktor was twenty-one and he was finally inspired again.
As the years had worn on, he had begun to gradually feel inspiration start to trickle away, little by little and drop by drop with every uncontested victory. When he was younger he had been a whirlwind of moves and music and ideas, each one more outlandish and original than the last and it had won him more gold medals and more world records than any other skater who stood by his side. But gradually that had begun to wear away, like incessant waves beating against a sandstone shore, and there had been nothing he could do to stop it.
He was still winning medals, still creating routines to wow the world but each year he had known he was growing closer and closer to the day that there would be no more surprises left in him anymore. And once he lost that he would lose everything.
But then something had changed. Because Yuuri Katsuki had come into his life, not all at once but creeping in slowly with every successive medal that he won, drawing closer and closer until he was finally standing by Viktor’s side with a silver medal for the first time and a pride Viktor hadn’t felt about his own skating for years written clearly across his face.
Yuuri Katsuki skated with everything that Viktor had once loved and had slowly begun to lose. Passion, determination, a fierce desire to win that drowned out almost everything else. From what he had seen of Yuuri’s training from his friend’s social media - Phichit Chulanont, Viktor had discovered, a junior skater training with Yuuri in Detroit – Yuuri worked himself obsessively, brutally hard as he mastered moves and jumps and perfected programs that were filled with a life and soul that inspired awe in everyone who saw them.
In public he seemed reserved, quiet and mysterious, but out on the ice he bared his soul for the world to see and it was beautiful to watch. He skated from the heart and he seemed to feel so deeply and with an intensity that drew Viktor in, made him want to know more. He felt connected to the other skater, wanted to know him, to see the beauty of his soul off the ice as well as on it.
Watching the other boy’s skating had sparked within him a reminder of what he had once so loved about life on the ice and it had begun to show again in his own routines. No longer simply going through the motions but really, truly feeling the music and the movements and skating with a love and a passion that had almost been lost to him.
People had begun to pick up on the gradual change but they attributed it to the wrong reason. A rivalry they had begun to say, a younger skater come to try and unseat the legend and the reigning champion stepping up his game to even greater heights to ward him off. It was a narrative borne from the wild speculation of the media and fans that always seemed to believe they knew Viktor in a way that no-one did or ever had before.
There was no rivalry on Viktor’s part, not in the way they claimed at least. He loved winning and loved it all the more now but that was because it felt like he was finally deserving of it again. Finally being pushed to be better to keep his titles. He didn’t resent Yuuri Katsuki for that at all, instead he loved him for it.
One the other skater’s side though, Viktor thought the media might have struck a lot closer to home. The constant glares directed at him by Yuuri were hard for anyone to miss and even if Viktor still couldn’t be sure why he seemed to be so disliked by the younger skater, the truth of the matter was clear all the same.
Yuuri Katsuki had made his main goal abundantly clear, in every interview and conversation that requested it of him. “What are your goals for next competition, for next season” reporters would ask him and every time he would give the same reply. “I aim to win gold.”
‘And I aim to beat Viktor Nikiforov to do it.’ His eyes would always say with their glares and looks of disdain. There was no doubt in the minds of anyone who saw him that his eyes were firmly fixed on the spot that Viktor had held for so long and he was willing to do whatever it took to claim it.
Once, a reporter had kept pushing and pushing, hoping for a story despite knowing how tightly guarded Yuuri always seemed to be whenever the topic of Viktor was brought up. Clearly he had wanted to insider information, shocking news to fuel the rumours of a rivalry rather that Yuuri’s standard answer.
“You plan to win gold?” The reporter had asked even as the conversation began to draw to a close. “You plan to unseat Viktor Nikiforov from his spot as reigning champion of the skating world?”
“Yes.” Yuuri had replied and there was a fire in his eyes and in his voice that was always present when the topic of victory arose.
“If you do it…” the reporter had continued but Yuuri cut him off before the sentence was even fully complete.
“Not if.” he had said. “When.”
Viktor was no stranger to being the one to beat, the final obstacle that prevented so many people from achieving what they had dreamed of and worked for their whole lives. Even Chris, now a close friend, often spoke about his desire to beat Viktor and finally win the gold. But when Chris said it, the words were good-natured, friendly. He wanted to win, to someday finally beat Viktor to the top of the podium but there was nothing malicious or resentful in his tone when he said it and they had discussed the topic on good terms many times.
With Yuuri Katsuki however, the words never seemed friendly. Not at all.
Viktor couldn’t understand it. It must be jealously that drove the anger from the other skater that was always directed his way. But from Chris he knew that it was possible to be friends with his competitors, to be close despite the rivalry that existed between them and he didn’t understand why he couldn’t have that with Yuuri as well. Why Yuuri seemed to hate him so much and for so long when all Viktor wanted to do was talk to him. To talk and be friendly and maybe one day be friends because Yuuri was fascinating and Viktor wanted to know everything about him. To unlock the secrets of the soul he bared only on the ice and kept so tightly locked away everywhere else.
But for the moment Viktor kept his distance and dodged the questions the reporters loved to throw at him because the last time he had tried to talk to Yuuri Katsuki something had gone wrong. Something had gone wrong without him even knowing what it was or how to fix it and he didn’t want to risk that happening again until he knew more. Yakov had once told him he spent more time with his foot in his mouth than in his skate and while Viktor usually ignored his advice, with the situation at hand he had finally decided to forego his immediate instinct to be rash and impulsive and hang back for once before making any kind of move.
Viktor was twenty-one and he wanted to know Yuuri Katsuki, however long it took and whatever the cost.
Viktor was twenty-two and he was jealous.
It had been almost a year since Yuuri had won his first silver against Viktor at the last World Championships and he had followed that with another silver at the next Grand Prix Final, the gap between them gradually inching shut. It was thrilling and Viktor had thrown himself back into skating, practicing late into the night and constantly scribbling new ideas for routines and music and jumps to prepare for the next competition when he would face off with Yuuri again.
Yakov had been pleased with the increase in Viktor’s drive and inspiration but he was not as happy about the reason why.
“He’s dangerous.” he had told Viktor one night after the rink was closed and Viktor was skating after hours once again. “You should never underestimate someone who does perfect compulsory figures at the start of every warm up like he does. In my day he would have been the undisputed champion and you would have been left in the dust. You’re used to being on top of the world Viktor but if you’re not careful he’s going to take that from you.”
Viktor hardly cared about the threat to his titles that Yuuri posed. It was that threat that made his heart race and each competition so exciting and he thought that he might not mind losing to Yuuri Katsuki once in a while. Surprising the audience had always been his main goal and suddenly their interest was at an all-time high because during each competition the same question was on everyone’s mind. Could Viktor Nikiforov hold onto his titles this year or was it finally Yuuri Katsuki’s chance to take home the gold. Every new competition and every new win was a surprise in the way it had failed to be for so long.
Viktor knew that Yakov was just concerned for him but he didn’t need to be. Yes, it was true that Yuuri was a threat to everything that Viktor had spent his life building but what was life without a little challenge? It was also true that the presence of Yuuri Katsuki in the skating world had begun to cause a divide that didn’t always work in Viktor’s favour but it wasn’t something he was particularly concerned about.
For a very long time he had been the favourite of the skating world and while that was still mostly true there were now a significant subset of fans who had begun to hate him in mimicry of the skater they idolised. Yakov resented that on his behalf and Viktor could admit that it wasn’t always pleasant at competitions, when there was now a desire to see him fail from a portion of the crowd that had never been present before. But he still had plenty of fans of his own and the words he heard didn’t bother him too much. Yakov had told him many times that he was far too blasé about the whole thing but Viktor could deal with dislike from a small group of fans if the payoff was Yuuri Katsuki skating against him.
The one thing he did care about however, was how far away from him the other skater still seemed to be and how little progress had been made in the years that Viktor had known him.
During the run up to the competition he had seen very little of the other skater which was normal. Yuuri Katsuki was notoriously elusive to reporters, fans and other skaters alike. With the notable exception of Phichit Chulanont, his friend and Viktor main source of information about Yuuri from his social media accounts.
It was also the Thai skater that was the source of Viktor’s jealously that day, watching the two of them laugh together as Yuuri stretched to prepare for his short program. He was jealous of their friendship.
Viktor had spent years watching Yuuri, wanting to get to know him but being unable to because of the anger and resentment that always seemed to radiate from the other skater whenever he was near. Yuuri was even more elusive with him that he was with any other skater and he always seemed to disappear whenever Viktor drew near. And when he was close by necessity, mainly when they were standing together on the podium, he practically radiated hostility.
But around his friend it was like he was a completely different person. Cheerful and happy and open, laughing and joking in a way that Viktor only ever saw when they were together. Yuuri’s laugh was beautiful and his smile lit up his whole face and Viktor wanted to be the one who made him look like that one day. But that seemed almost like an impossible dream with how Yuuri still seemed to act around him.
As the time had gone by, Viktor had grown even more confused as to the source of the other skater’s hostility. At first he had believed that maybe it was jealously and resentment over losing that caused the cascade of negative emotions from Yuuri whenever he was near but as the years wore on that seemed more and more unlikely.
Yuuri was polite and pleasant with every skater but Viktor, even the ones that occasionally beat him in qualifying competitions or once or twice at the Four Continents where Viktor never skated. Like all skaters, he didn’t seem to enjoy losing but it was never met with the same bitterness as it was when Viktor was the one above him on the podium. Yuuri Katsuki wasn’t by nature a spiteful or malicious person, Viktor could see that from the way he treated everyone but him. The nature of his dislike seemed personal, directed at Viktor and Viktor alone.
During many sleepless nights, Viktor had thought back on their one brief interaction and tried to work out what could possibly have happened to create such strong dislike in such a short space of time. But he could never figure it out. There must be more, something he was missing but the truth of it eluded him. And he was sure the Yuuri would never tell him even if he asked, considering the cold shoulder he always got from the other skater whenever they were together.
Yuuri skated beautifully, he challenged Viktor and pushed him to become better and he was warm and earnest and kind to everyone bar one. Viktor was still as fascinated by him as ever and his desire to get to know Yuuri had only grown. He wanted to make Yuuri smile and laugh and talk to him the way he talked to his friend. He wanted to know Yuuri because Yuuri had brought something back into his life that made everything seem suddenly brighter and Viktor wanted to thank him for it.
Viktor had spent a long time watching Yuuri closely both on and off the ice and he could happily conclude that Yuuri had a beautiful soul. Something that shone through in his skating and the way he laughed and the way he was so attentive to all his fans and everyone he talked to who wasn’t Viktor.
Across the room, Viktor continued to watch Yuuri and his friend talking and laughing together. Phichit made a comment that was drowned out in the noise of the room they were in and Yuuri laughed so hard Viktor thought there might be actual tears forming in his eyes, his nose scrunching up adorably as he did so and his voice bright and joyful. As he laughed he shifted slightly and suddenly all the joy dropped from his face as his eyes locked with Viktor’s.
Viktor could feel his heart drop a little at the sight because he had been doing nothing but watching and yet still even his mere presence seemed to suck the happiness out of Yuuri. It was one of the reasons why Viktor had always stayed away because he hated the fact that he seemed to be the cause even if he still didn’t know why. Focusing on the other skater, he searched his face for any sign or clue as to the reason for the sudden shift in emotion but he found nothing.
Before he had a chance to do much more, Yakov called out to him across the room and Viktor was forced to look away. In the competition he was skating first and it was time for him to go to the rink to perform.
As he made his way up to the arena where thousands of fans were already chanting him name he hoped that Yuuri would be watching. There were television screens placed all around the skater’s area that they had both been in minutes before, showing the rink where each skater would compete and Viktor hoped that Yuuri would watch him as closely as he always watched the other skater. The routine he was skating was inspired by Yuuri after all.
All the routines he performed Viktor choreographed himself, choosing the music and designing the routine to evoke emotion and tell a story to everyone who watched him.
His short program for that season was special to him because it had been designed with Yuuri in mind, someone who refused to let Viktor know him but who Viktor wanted to know all the same. The rivalry image the media had pounced on was even more prevalent than ever but Viktor knew his feelings for Yuuri were a very long way from the hatred and resentment that everyone seemed to believe they were. Every year they grew stronger and his desire to know Yuuri as more than just a competitor increased.
The song he was skating to was a duet with lyrics that had captured his attention the moment he heard them and he skated with all his heart, pouring out everything he felt into the routine. He couldn’t speak to Yuuri properly, not when every time he was even close Yuuri shut himself off and turned hard and cold like the ice he skated on, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t speak at all. Skating was a language within itself and one they had both spent their whole lives learning. He wasn’t sure that Yuuri was watching but he hoped that he was.
Words might fail him around Yuuri and it might seem like he would never get the chance to know Yuuri in any way other than as a competitor but Viktor still had hope and they still had time. And he had never been one to give up easily.
After he finished the routine he left the ice to receive his score before making his way up into the stands to watch the rest of the skaters perform. There was one skater in particular that he was eager to see.
When Yuuri entered the rink for his own performance he looked focused, completely blocking out everything as he prepared to skate. The music he had chosen began, filling the stadium and the melody was mournful, almost unbearably sad and it made Viktor’s heart ache. All the more so because Yuuri skated with the same heart-wrenching sadness, the emotions in him running deep and spilling out into every move he performed.
Yuuri had a gift when he skated, an ability to touch the hearts of everyone who watched him, to make them feel what he was feeling as he performed. It was what had first caught Viktor’s eye and had only grown more and more powerful as he grew and learned and improve until he was truly a sight to behold. Stunning out on the ice with not a single person able to look away from him.
Yuuri’s skating wasn’t the only thing that had grown over the years either. The skater out on the ice was a very long way away from the innocent looking boy that Viktor had first seen crying alone and looking so very scared. Now his figure was full of poise and confidence and his face had matured considerably in the years that had passed.
Cheekbones had sharpened and the last of the childish roundness had dropped from his features, leaving him with a face that had begun to turn many heads. His figure had changed too, growing taller and filling out as the years passed until he was lean and graceful, slim but with a power concealed in his body that had wowed the skating world many times over with a stamina that was unparalleled out on the ice.
The stamina was something that he pushed to its limit as he skated, jump after jump being added into the second half of his routine until Viktor could see the beads of perspiration trickling down his brow. But still he skated on. There was a fierce determination in everything that he did and it was one of the things that made him so intrinsically beautiful.
Yuuri finally brought the routine to a close and the audience went wild around him. Viktor clapped for him too because Yuuri’s skating never failed to surprise or awe him. When Yuuri stepped off the rink he was greeted by his friend who tackled him into a hug that almost knocked Yuuri off his feet with its enthusiasm. Viktor watched the two of them together and felt again the tiny stirrings of jealously at how easily Yuuri smiled at his friend when he had never looked at Viktor with anything but distain.
After being congratulated by his friend, Yuuri walked to the kiss and cry to receive his score and when it was announced there was a great rush of sound from the audience as they took in the new information. The way that Yuuri’s name had appeared at the top of the scoreboard, above even Viktor’s own.
“It seems like you might finally have met your match.” Chris joked to him later that night.
They had gone out drinking after the short programs ended, not one of their wild nights out that they were becoming renown for but a more sedate form of relaxation. They both still had to skate the next day and fun as drinking and spending time with Chris was, Viktor wasn’t irresponsible enough to get drunk the night before the short programs and neither was his friend. Chris had convinced him to come out to casually unwind from the events of the day and Viktor hadn’t really needed that much convincing.
He hummed in agreement at the words, a small smile on his face as he took a sip from the glass in front of him. It had been years since anyone had been able to get close and it was thrilling to know that he would have to work harder than ever the next day, surprise the audience in new and even more exciting ways in order to win.
“I had always hoped it would be me to knock you down from that pedestal you’ve been standing on for so long.” Chris joked, knocking his shoulder against Viktor’s playfully. “But it seems like Katsuki might beat me to it. I’ll get you both one day though, you mark my words.”
The conversation was teasing and Viktor laughed with him. There might be rivalry between the two of them but they were friends first. He knew how it frustrated Chris that he was always in second place but it was something they had talked about before and he knew that the feeling didn’t drive any resentment of Viktor personally.
“He was amazing today.” Viktor agreed and Chris gave him considering look at the words.
“He was.” Chris confirmed but his voice was a little hesitant. “But you seem awfully pleased about it for something that he very publicly hates.”
Viktor just shrugged, taking another sip from his glass and feeling the burn as the alcohol slid down his throat. Yuuri might not like him at the moment but one day he would figure out why and finally would be able to break the resentment that was keeping him so far away.
“There’s just something about him.” he told Chris instead of voicing his innermost thoughts. “I feel connected to him somehow.” Drawn to him was what he didn’t say. Fascinated by him.
“Well, that definitely seems to be a one-sided attraction.” Chris joked again but there was a hint of seriousness to his eyes. “I’ve spoken to him before and he seems like a genuinely nice person but there’s something about you that he really seems to hate.”
Viktor sighed because he knew that it was true, much as he disliked it and little as he understood it.
“I know.” he replied and Chris just raised an eyebrow, taking a drink out of his own glass.
Viktor knew that Chris didn’t understand his fascination with Yuuri Katsuki but at least he didn’t push it any further and didn’t comment on it during the free skate the next day. Viktor was skating before Yuuri which meant he would have time to collect his scores and then watch the other skater after his program was complete.
His free skate was different to anything he had tried before, something new to surprise the audiences because he had the passion and the drive to do it again and again and it was a thrilling feeling. Once it was over he retreated back into the stands with Chris to watch Yuuri perform.
The song Yuuri was skating to was a waltz, dark and dangerous and it sent a spark of something running through Viktor because he recognised the style instantly.
The routine wasn’t a copy, far from it. It was personal and unique and wonderful to watch but the core of it, the very heart was something unmistakably similar to something he himself had done years previously.
The very first time he had noticed Yuuri, soon after he had seen the boy crying alone, he had skated a routine to a waltz very similar to the one that Yuuri himself was performing. A dance with an invisible partner, a beautiful challenge. Every move half complete, matched only by a figure on the ice that existed as nothing but a phantom of the imagination.
And now Yuuri was doing the same, the routine perfectly unique and perfectly his own but the similarities couldn’t be denied. Viktor knew that Yuuri had seen his routine that day, he had spotted the other boy watching from the shadows at the side of the rink just before he had disappeared. It might be an unintentional match, a subconscious inspiration taken from one of Viktor’s own routines or it might be a strategic move but either way, the point remained the same.
Yuuri watched Viktor’s routines, just like Viktor watched Yuuri’s. Watched and enjoyed at least one of them enough that elements of it bled over into his own skating and it made Viktor heart leap in his chest. Because if Yuuri was skating something that had taken even a shred of inspiration from Viktor’s own work then maybe Yuuri didn’t completely loathe him as much as everyone seemed to think.
The thoughts were still consuming Viktor once Yuuri had finished his routine and left the ice to collect his scores and he almost missed the announcement over the loudspeaker. It was only when the noise of the crowd around him rose into a deafening roar that he shook himself out of his thoughts to see that Yuuri’s name was below his on the scoreboard again. Their scores glared out brightly from the screen and he could see how breathtakingly close they were, Yuuri’s lower by just a single point.
It was the closest that anyone had come to beating Viktor in such a long time that he was almost disappointed that Yuuri hadn’t finally succeeded. Viktor loved winning but Yuuri’s routines had been stunning and he would have been proud to be bested by something so special. He didn’t necessarily want to lose but if it happened, he would lose to Yuuri Katsuki with a smile.
Out in the kiss and cry Yuuri was looking devastated by the results and Viktor wanted to go over and comfort him, to offer his congratulations on two routines beautifully performed but he knew that he couldn’t. The last time he had tried to compliment Yuuri it had backfired and with the other skater looking so heartbreakingly unhappy he didn’t want to make things even worse.
Later that night and long into the next day Viktor thought back on the events of the competition, pondering it over and over again in his mind. Yuuri had reacted badly to the mere sight of him but just like before he had been kind and friendly to everyone else, the person Viktor was sure he truly was inside shining through. He had been stunning out on the ice as he skated, filled with emotion and allowing Viktor the tiniest of glimpses into his soul that he always craved. And more than that, one of the routines that he had skated to with such a passion had been so similar in its core to something he knew Yuuri had seen him perform when they had first spotted each other years ago.
Viktor was twenty-two and Yuuri Katsuki was a beautiful enigma. And Viktor never wanted to look away.
Viktor was twenty-two and he was in pain.
It had been a mistake, a stupid, stupid mistake and it had cost him dearly. Many people had warned him in the past about the dangers of the sport that he had given his life to. ‘All good skaters get injured at some point’ they had told him. ‘You just have to pray it won’t end your career when you do.’
But he hadn’t listened because he never did and nothing and no-one could ever stop him pushing himself to his limits and far beyond it out on the ice. The low grade pain was already starting to creep up into his joints from the strain that he placed his body under time and time again and every day after practice he found his feet bruised or bleeding from the grueling training he forced himself through. But it was always worth it in the end and he had never believed that he might one day be injured for real.
He was Viktor Nikiforov, he was top of the skating world and finally loving it again and he still had so much left to do. Part of him had always felt invincible and it only made it hurt even more when everything came crashing down around him.
The competition where it happened had been one of the qualifiers. Skate Canada, a competition that Viktor had competed in many times before. Nothing had been special about that morning, nothing out of the ordinary. The first sign that he had received that something was going to change was during the warm up just before the start of the short programs.
Viktor had been gliding across the ice, running through his routines and lost in thought when he had spotted him, far up in the stands but unmistakable to Viktor’s eyes. Yuuri Katsuki, dressed not in the skating clothes Viktor was so used to seeing him in but casually, sitting next to the man Viktor recognised as his coach and watching the skaters out on the rink. The sight threw Viktor so much that he almost stumbled but he recovered the mistake before it was even fully formed.
Quickly he glanced around, trying to work out what the hell Yuuri Katsuki was doing at Skate Canada. A few days previously Viktor had watched him win gold at Skate America but he hadn’t expected to see the other man in person until the Grand Prix Final. After a couple of seconds of frantic confusion another skater sped past Viktor, a bright smile on his face as he waved up into the stands and Viktor suddenly understood.
Phichit Chulanont was skating in the same competition as he was, a fact that he had overlooked until then. Of course Yuuri had come to support his friend. The two were known to be close and Viktor had seen Phichit attend a lot of Yuuri’s competitions before. It made sense that it also happened the other way around.
During the rest of the time before the short programs, Viktor couldn’t help but find his eyes drawn up to the spot where Yuuri was sitting high in the stands above him. When Phichit performed, Viktor watched the performance through the joy and pride on Yuuri’s face and when the Thai boy had finally finished Viktor watched as Yuuri pulled him into a crushing hug, praising his routine with happiness radiating from every pore.
Yuuri felt emotions so strongly, and showed them so vividly when he allowed himself to, that it was impossible not to feel the same and Viktor found himself smiling at the sight even as the now familiar twinges of jealously made themselves known. Because Yuuri had never looked at him that way before despite how much he wanted it.
When it was Viktor’s own turn to skate he couldn’t get the image and the accompanying feelings out of his mind. It had been a long time since he had first seen Yuuri Katsuki, had first watched him skate and felt something stir within himself that had only grown over the years until it had become almost all consuming. It had been almost as long since he had first tried to talk to the other boy, to make a connection because he somehow felt like he and Yuuri might be kindred spirits and he wanted to know him better.
But that conversation had ended badly and Viktor had never been able to find or make a good opportunity to try again. Patience wasn’t something he was well known for, it had been difficult to stay away, and he was finally starting to run out. Surely it was time to try and talk to Yuuri again? The other skater might still be as hostile as ever, something Viktor had hoped would fade over the years but that never had, but Viktor was sure he could get past that if only he knew the cause and could finally solve the mystery that was Yuuri Katsuki.
The thoughts of Yuuri consumed him even as he tried to focus fully on his routine. Yuuri had been like a light in the darkness, a breath of fresh air that brought life back to Viktor’s world that he hadn’t even realised how much he had been missing until he had it again.
In the beginning, he had been fascinated by Yuuri. By he way he skated and the person within and the fractions of his true self that Viktor saw out on the ice when he was at his most open and vulnerable. Over the years, the fascination had only grow, as had the complexity of the mystery that surrounded Yuuri and everything he did and felt.
But more than just fascination had grown over the years inside Viktor as he looked at Yuuri Katsuki. Yuuri had a kind heart and a beautiful smile and while he kept himself reserved in public, when he allowed his emotions to flow freely out on the ice it was clear that he felt everything deeply in a way that Viktor recognised because it was the way he himself had always felt throughout his entire life. Yuuri was hard-working with a devotion that few ever achieved and he was completely dedicated to the ice just like Viktor was. He was passionate and intriguing and Viktor wanted to know everything about him, everything that he kept hidden from the rest of the world.
He wanted to make Yuuri smile and laugh the way that he knew was possible even if he had never done it himself. He wanted to spend hours talking to Yuuri about every topic under the sun. He wanted to know him and be known in return.
It was then, distracted by thoughts of Yuuri and stupidly not paying attention to what he should have been focusing on, that it happened.
Viktor had jumped, something he had done countless times before and it should have been fine except this time it suddenly wasn’t. The jump was hard, a quadruple lutz that had taken him hundreds of hours of pain and practice to learn but he had mastered it long enough ago that he had assumed he would never make a mistake again.
But make a mistake he had. Too distracted to pay proper attention, too confident in his own abilities and as soon as his skate touched back on the ice he knew it was lost. His balance was completely off and the landing was bad. Pain shot through his leg as it connected back with the hard surface, the momentum of the jump pushing him forward as he hit the ice to slam painfully into the barrier that separated the rink from the stands.
Distantly he heard the sound of the music cut off but he could barely bring himself to acknowledge it because there was agony like fire running through his leg that even the cool surface of the ice that he was lying pressed against couldn’t dull.
Feeling the humiliation at failing so publicly over something so stupid he pushed himself up to his knees and tried to stand, determined to keep going but a sharp spike of pain jolting through his already aching body stopped him. So intense that he was unable to bite back the cry that clawed its way out of his throat in response.
The noise echoed across the whole room and Viktor flipped himself around so that his face was staring at the ceiling rather than the ice that had betrayed him, closing his eyes and willing the sharp sting in them away as tears of pain fought to break free.
Suddenly he felt the warm pressure of a hand on his shoulder and he opened his eyes again to see a medic crouching over him on the ice, trying to force him onto a stretcher. Jerkily, Viktor shook him off, unable to care if the gesture was rude because he was in too much pain and he couldn’t let himself show it. There were too many eyes trained on him and the pressures and expectations that went hand in hand with his reputation as a living legend didn’t allow for weakness.
Instead he took the offered arm of the second medic who had rushed over to help, leaning as much of his weight on them as he dared and grimacing again as he put pressure on his injured leg, biting back another pained cry.
As quickly as he dared, he struggled his way back to the side of the rink where Yakov was waiting for him, looking as concerned as Viktor had ever seen him. In the back of his mind, Viktor registered that the audience were cheering again, showing their support even as he had failed and he turned around to wave to them in acknowledgement before allowing Yakov and the medics to guide him away.
He couldn’t bring himself to look up at the stands to where he knew Yuuri Katsuki was sitting and watching but the thought of the other skater wouldn’t leave his mind even as he was whisked to hospital to have his leg treated and much later when he was finally back in Russia again. Makkachin warm by his side and giving his hands comforting licks as he tried to make Viktor feel better the only way he knew how.
Once he was back in Russia, Viktor had hoped that everything might be better but it actually made things so much worse. The damage the bad jump had done to his leg was serious enough that Yakov had banned him from even attempting to skate for the remainder of the season. When Viktor had asked when he would finally be able to get back on the ice again the doctors had frowned and muttered about chance and therapy and the balance of probability and Viktor knew exactly what they were trying to hide with their rambling words.
The injury was bad. Not catastrophic but bad enough to put him out for the minimum of a season and maybe longer. Bad enough that if he was very unlucky his leg might never be the same again. And if that happened he knew that his life would be over.
A long time ago he had sold his soul to the ice and he had never regretted it before but as soon as the ice was taken from him he realised how little he had left without it. There was his apartment and his beloved Makkachin and his rink-mates and few friend like Chris from the skating world. But for as long as he could remember everything in his life had been based around the sport he loved and without it the whole world seemed a much emptier and scarier place.
As the days wore on he tried to fill his time with things to distract him from the pain in his leg and the pain in his heart but nothing seemed to work. Sometimes he took Makkachin out for walks but even that was painful and only lasted for brief periods of time before he was forced to stop. A lot of the time he spent at the rink, not allowed on the ice but needing to be near it all the same. Eventually Yakov got sick of his moping and banned him from even doing that, telling him to go and live his life and get better without feeling so damn sorry for himself.
Viktor knew Yakov was just worried about him and he could see why. He knew it was pathetic, that he was twenty-two and had no idea what to do with himself outside of skating but it was the truth all the same. The idea that he might never be able to return dragged him down and weighed on him every minute of every day.
When Yakov and Georgi travelled to Moscow for the Rostelecom Cup, Viktor went with them. Yakov took pity on him and decided not to question his decision and Viktor was grateful for it. Watching the Roselecom Cup would at least give him an excuse to feel connected to the world of skating again even if he couldn’t compete. And there was also a part of him, that was bigger than he could ever admit out loud, that wanted to be there for the competition because Yuuri Katsuki was skating. Yuuri had inspired him once before when he was starting to feel like he was losing his purpose in his life and there was a childish part of Viktor that hoped the other man would be able to do it again, even if he had no idea what an impact he had made on Viktor’s life.
At the competition he stayed hidden, not wanting to be seen by either the fans or reporters that were always hounding his every move but he watched all the same. The competition was fairly intense, although nowhere near the level that he knew the Grand Prix Final would be. Above all however, the thing that stood out to him more than anything else was Yuuri Katuski’s performance.
He was good, he always was, but the emotion and passion that usually filled his skating was strangely absent. Viktor had watched him enough times to know his normal style well and there was something mechanical in the way that Yuuri moved, like he was simply going through the motions rather than pouring his heart and soul into his skating in the way that Viktor had grown so used to.
It was jarring to watch and Viktor wondered what it was that had thrown his performance off so much.
After the competition was over and the medals had been awarded Viktor left, slipping out unnoticed and returning back to his hotel. For a few hours he tried to distract himself but every effort was futile and eventually he gave up. Instead he ventured out in to the Moscow night, knowing what he needed even if he understood rationally how bizarre it really was.
Being around the ice calmed him down, helped him think because it was all he had ever known and it was comforting in a way that nothing else was. Even if he couldn’t skate his feelings away like he was so used to doing, just being a rink would be better than nothing.
There were a few local places around the hotel he was staying in but one he knew in particular. It was a rink Yakov had used when his skaters were competing at Rostelecom before and Viktor remembered it well enough to find his way there and sweet talk the woman at the desk into letting him in after hours.
“There’s someone already in there.” she had told him and Viktor blinked a little in surprise because it was unusual to find a commercial rink like the one he was in being used after hours.
“A foreign man. Nice but didn’t speak a word of Russian.” she added and Viktor wondered absently if it was one of the skaters from the Cup. They were probably the only foreigners who would chose to skate after hours in a quiet rink in Moscow so close to the stadium but it was still very unusual. After a long day of competing, most just wanted to eat or sleep and it was only very few like Viktor who had skating so deeply woven into their blood that it was better than any other kind of relaxation to soothe the mind.
Hoping the other skater wouldn’t mind sharing the rink space for a while, especially since Viktor wasn’t even able to skate, he made his way over to the double doors leading onto the rink, pushing them open quietly so as not to startle whoever was already inside.
As Viktor entered the room the first thing he registered was how dark it was. The main lights overhead had been turned off for the night and it was only the handful of dimly glowing lamps scattered around the walls of the rink that gave any light to the room at all, bathing it in a yellowish glow like an old photograph. The next thing he noticed was the almost complete silence, the hush only broken by the rhythmic scraping of skates against ice. Finally, he noticed the skater out on the rink.
In the long shadows cast by the room the man’s face was hidden but Viktor would have recognised his skating style anywhere. Yuuri Katsuki was alone on the rink, gliding with a grace and skill that set him apart from so many others and emotions filling every movement in a way that had been so conspicuously absent during the competition that day. As he skated, his face passed into a beam of light and Viktor saw that he had his eyes closed, too caught up in his routine to pay attention to anything that was going on around him.
Still with his eyes closed, Yuuri launched himself into another spin and it almost took Viktor’s breath away because he was so beautiful when he skated and watching him was beyond compare. When he had first seen Yuuri skate, Viktor had known that he perfectly embodied just what had made Viktor fall in love with skating and the ice in the first place and Yuuri had reawakened that love without even knowing it. And now he was skating again and Viktor could barely breathe because Yuuri Katsuki never failed to surprise and inspire him and this time was no exception.
It was only after a few moments that something else tugged at the corners of Viktor mind, something familiar that demanded to be noticed. As he skated, Yuuri made music with his body, a melody that was silent but heard all the same and a melody that seemed strangely familiar to Viktor. For a few more seconds he watched, entranced, and then Yuuri launched himself into a jump, a downgraded triple flip and Viktor suddenly realised just what was so familiar about what he was seeing.
It was his routine that Yuuri was skating. A routine from so long ago, when he was just a child and feeling on top of the world and like nothing could ever bring him down. A routine about love that he had performed and performed well because love was a beautiful idea and one that he one day hoped he might know for real.
But Yuuri wasn’t acting it the way that he had been back then. There was love woven into every part of the way he skated, every move, every turn. Love and care and dedication that was real and true and so much more than Viktor ever could have imagined or expected.
The routine was perfect, a copy that was even more impressive than the original and Viktor couldn’t look away. Yuuri had taken the routine and replicated it with a precision that could only have come with countless hours of practice and observation and then he had filled it with a love that was pure and true and more precious than any trophy or medal.
Viktor had no idea why Yuuri Katsuki was skating one of his old routines but he wanted to know more than anything. The other skater had only ever been hostile towards him but to have learned and replicated his final Junior Grand Prix free skate with such perfection there must be something hidden under the façade of hatred that Viktor had never seen before. The kind of love that was embodied in every move that Yuuri skated couldn’t be born from purely the negative emotions that he displayed so clearly whenever Viktor was near. There was something more. Viktor didn’t know quite what but he was determined to find out.
Yuuri clearly didn’t love him, his clear dislike making that much obvious at least. But he must feel something for Viktor, something that he had kept secret for who knew how many years. Something that had lead him to learn and perform one of the best and most emotive routines Viktor had ever skated, only when he was alone and no-one was there to see it. Something that had lead him to incorporate another of Viktor routines into one of his best competitive performances, knowingly or not.
Something that had lead him to be inspired by Viktor’s skating, just like Viktor had been inspired by Yuuri’s. Because Viktor might not have ever consciously noticed it before, it was very well concealed after all, but once he knew where to look he could see elements of himself in so many of the moves that Yuuri performed. It was in the tiny details, the way he prepared for jumps and the way he performed some of his spins. Viktor had seen it before in fans who copied his style but it was different with Yuuri because he had taken the elements and made them his own, blending seamlessly into the parts of himself that made his skating so special and unique.
Yuuri Katsuki was more of a mystery than ever but Viktor knew one thing for sure. There was something in him, some part that had always been hidden from the world and was only shown in moments like this when he thought that he was alone, that didn’t hate Viktor at all.
As the routine began to come to a close, Yuuri swept into a beautifully executed camel spin, eyes still closed and Viktor backed away, not wanting to be noticed. He wanted to talk to Yuuri, to unlock the secrets of his soul but he had unintentionally intruded on a private moment and even he knew that it wasn’t a good time. Not yet at least.
Later, once he was back in St Petersburg, he threw himself back into training in a way that surprised even Yakov. After a few weeks of moping around and feeling sorry for himself, Viktor knew that the change must be dramatic but he couldn’t explain why to anyone but himself. What he had witnessed was too private to speak about and so he simply shrugged when Yakov asked and said that he was bored and needed to start training again before it drove him mad.
Due to his leg he was still banned from the ice but physical therapy was a good first step. It was more painful and frustrating that Viktor ever would have expected but he knew he had to push through if he ever wanted to get back on the ice again.
Once again, Yuuri Katsuki had brought something special back into his life and it inspired Viktor to keep going, to be better and do more because if he didn’t he would never skate on the same ice as Yuuri Katsuki again and that wasn’t an option.
Watching Yuuri skate his routine with the beauty and pure depth of feeling that he had had reminded Viktor of just what he loved about skating and just how much he wanted to compete again. It had inspired him and he spent many sleepless nights with a pad of paper in front of him coming up with new routines for the next season. Because while there had been some concern that his injury might put him out for good he now refused to let that happen.
And most importantly of all it had shown him a side of Yuuri that he had never seen before and it was beautiful. He wanted to see more, to know more and he knew now more than ever that there was so much more to Yuuri Katsuki than anyone ever knew or expected. And he wanted to be the one to discover it all. To have the trust of the person who had had such a profound effect on his life and to be close to Yuuri because he could think of nothing in his life that he could ever want more.
During his early days of rehabilitation, Yakov refused to announce to the press that Viktor would be returning for the next season. There was still too much doubt as to the possibility or speed of his recovery and he wanted to play it safe, something that he and Viktor had often clashed about. Rumours were flying all across the skating world that Viktor was going to be absent for years, that he was going to be forced to retire for good. But there was one person who seemed to simply not accept that it was a possibility.
Viktor watched Yuuri Katsuki win the Grand Prix Final for the first time and marvelled at how stunning he was to watch in his victory and how much he deserved it. Watched as he went on to win the Four Continents and the World Championships in a marvellous display of talent that had everyone including Viktor on the edges of their seats. After the competitions were over, a reporter had cornered him and started asking questions, questions that had inevitably turned to Viktor as they always did.
“How do you feel about the rumours that your rival Viktor Nikiforov might be retiring?” the reporter had asked, ignoring how uncomfortable Yuuri looked as he crowded closer. “What are your thoughts about next season.”
“I’m looking forward to facing Nikforov on the ice again next season.” Yuuri had replied, completely ignoring the suggestion that Viktor might not come back.
Viktor forced Yakov to announce his return to skating the next day and pushed himself harder than ever. It would seem like he was letting Yuuri down if he didn’t return as soon as possible and after everything Yuuri had done for him he couldn’t let that happen.
From the very first moment Viktor Nikiforov had seen Yuuri Katsuki he had known that he was special. But finally, he was beginning to see just how much.
He had been fascinated with Yuuri for years and had admired almost everything about him. Gradually he had felt his feelings being to grow and change and it had happened slowly, with each new piece of Yuuri that he discovered. His determination and dedication. The way he skated so beautifully like he was making music with his body. The way he smiled and the way he laughed. The fierce passion burning within him that drove him to try over and over again even as he was knocked down, until he was finally closer to Viktor than anyone had ever been before. The way he pushed Viktor to become better just by being himself and the way that he had brought meaning back into Viktor’s life time and time again.
Viktor had known for a long time where the path he was walking would eventually lead but before, he had been falling slowly. And then he had seen Yuuri skating his routine and suddenly it had happened unexpectedly and all at once and there was nothing he could do to change it. Not that he would ever want to.
Viktor Nikiforov was twenty-three. And he was completely in love with Yuuri Katsuki.