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P.S. I Love You

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Victor's skates cut across the ice, his arms dancing in time with the upbeat tempo blaring from the speakers. He had rehearsed this a million times, his body moving before he thought to jump. He could skate this routine in his sleep.

On the side-lines, leaning over the barrier, his husband Yuuri Katsuki-Nikiforov cheers him on, grinning whenever their eyes meet.

But there's a black spot in the periphery of his vision.

And the colours blur into nothing.

And he's on the ice.

Fade to black.

In the distance, Victor can hear the commentators shocked voices booming over the music, the crowd buzzing with concern.

Yuuri's already on the ice, skating faster than the first aiders to get to him. He cradles his husband’s head in his arms, stroking his hair, willing him awake.

It doesn't matter.

 

There was nothing certain about Victor's life, or lack thereof. All they knew was that it would inevitably end at the hands of a reasonably aggressive tumour pressing on his brain.

For a while, Victor continued to push himself physically, ignoring the truth of what his diagnosis meant. This was the first time in his life that he had everything he wanted. He lived in a gorgeous apartment, with two bedrooms, anticipating the possibility of a family. Makkachin, his beloved dog, had sadly passed the year before, but he had made peace with that. They were now discussing whether it was the right time to get another puppy, another being to share their wonderful life with.

And of course, he had his Yuuri. The man who had crashed into his life, drunk off his ass but dewy-eyed and gorgeous, begging Victor to be his coach in that fateful banquet hall.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Together, they were the strongest skaters in competition. Only the Russian Fairy, Yuri Plisetsky, really offered them any challenge, and they were constantly winning medals. For the past two seasons, their exhibition skate had been a duet, not because they couldn't choreograph another one, but because they didn't need to. Their life and love was open for the world to see, both on and off the ice, and Victor was finally, for the first time in his life, completely content.

But that all came crashing down in the clinical doctor's office, amongst a stack of dusty medical manuals, stacks of scans and test results, and the white coat stethoscope human sat on the other side of the desk.

"I'm sorry."

The words travelled noiselessly; Victor heard static.

Of course, Yuuri, talking at breakneck speed, was debating plan B through to plan Z, but Victor gently squeezed his hand, silencing him softly. The weight of the silence pressed on his shoulders; he wanted to cry, to scream, but nothing came out.

"How long?"

The curt question threw itself from Victor before he could stop it, and tears filled Yuuri's eyes.

"Possibly nine months," the doctor replied, sympathy etched into the tired lines on her face. This was not the first death sentence she had delivered, and it wouldn't be the last. Perhaps he was her third of the day, but that didn't matter to them.

Nine months was not a long time.

But now, it was a lifetime.

The first night was the worst. They lay together and sobbed, both silently and violently into the sheets, muttering 'I love you's and 'I'm sorry's in between kisses.

Victor couldn't contain his anger, breaking over him like waves, the tide drawing in to drown him in a sea of sore red eyes, of white fists balled against the mattress. He was trying his best to hold it together for Yuuri's sake. Yuuri saw straight through him, of course, and Victor knew it.

He couldn’t help but beg the question, why him? Why now? Victor was not a bad person, and neither was Yuuri. He didn’t deserve this. They didn’t deserve this.

The first night was hell.

Fittingly, rain beat hard against the window, deafening combined with the wet sobs heaving in their chests. When they finally collapsed into a tangled, dreamless sleep, their body heat reminded them that, for now at least, they were alive.

Victor woke first the next morning, and pried himself from Yuuri's limbs, planting a gentle kiss on his hair before padding into the kitchen.

He started preparing pancakes, usually an out of season treat, but he was sure they could make an exception. After warming the syrup on the stove, he heard a cough behind him.

Yuuri, wearing just his boxers and one of Victor's old shirts, was stood leaning against the doorway, his sleepy eyes swollen with the tears shed last night. His hair was sticking up slightly, dishevelled by the pillows and blankets. And Victor was in love.

He crossed the floor and enveloped Yuuri in his arms, inhaling the smell of his own apple shampoo on the shorter man's head. He closed his eyes. There were no more tears to give.

They stood like that until they could smell burning sugar, setting off their smoke alarm, rudely bursting their delicate bubble.

They sat at the island in the kitchen and held hands while they ate despite the fact it was incredibly difficult to eat pancakes one handed. When they had finished, and their forks clattered to the ceramic, they finally looked at each other.

Yuuri gazed lovingly at Victor, as though it were the last time he would see his delicate blue eyes, shining with the late morning sun, lined red after the storm the night before. His mouth hinted at a smile, the kissable curve tinged pink with the hot food. Victor's hair fell across his face slightly, causing him to involuntarily flick his head. Yuuri loved it when he did that.

And Victor saw Yuuri.

The next few months flashed before him, and he saw the fear in the deep brown eyes that stared back at him. The months of agony and heartache before they happened.

And he wished for one fleeting moment that they had never met.

For a while they didn't speak, just watched each other, shuffling closer together, until Yuuri’s lower back was pressed uncomfortably against the kitchen counter, and Victor's lips were on his neck. Strong arms were under his legs, lifting him onto the cool surface, inadvertently knocking one of the plates to the floor, ceramic scattering like interference across the kitchen tiles.

That didn’t stop them. Victor’s teeth grazed the sensitive skin on Yuuri’s collarbone, flicking his tongue out to roam his hot skin as he pulled the loose shirt off his back.

They eventually made their way to the bedroom, alternating between sighs, and desperate, needy kisses, punctuated with moans. As night fell, and the two lay exhausted on top of the covers, Yuuri traced patterns on Victor's pale, bare chest. Moonlight streamed through the sparse curtains, throwing silver shade on the scene. To fend off the cold light, they held each other close.

"Yuuri," Victor whispered, kissing his head gently.

"I know," was all he replied, kissing his neck in response.

They both knew.

 

It was three months before there was an obvious difference in Victor's health. Perhaps it was because he was an athlete, or perhaps he had chosen to ignore his illness, but those three months passed without any public incident.

Yuuri was the first to notice, disturbed in the early hours of the morning by Victor's violent bursts of nausea, and the sound of a fist against the floor in frustration. He also noticed the increase in his medication, and the shadows beneath his eyes. He didn’t say anything, instead quietly arranging the tablets in a neat row next to a glass of water, and always making sure that when Victor returned from the bathroom, there was a cool flannel and a drink waiting for him.

Victor continued to skate, forcing his body to recreate the music that resounded across the ice. It worked, for a while, and when he was on the ice he could forget the pressing tumour that drew black spots swimming into his vision, and caused him to vomit every other night. But when his limbs refused to work the way he willed, he would find himself reduced to hot tears, storming off into the changing rooms.

It was three months before Victor had his first fit.

Yuuri had read all about the kind of seizures that a brain tumour can cause, but seeing it first hand, all he could do was sob down the phone to Yakov, who, in the dead of night, rushed straight to the apartment.

It had already stopped by the time he arrived, and it had only lasted two minutes. Yakov insisted on staying on the couch, refusing to sleep, listening as the hushed sound of Yuuri crying died down, and silence echoed around the apartment.

Victor snuck out of the room after an hour, and joined him on the couch. He couldn’t bring himself to look to his left, to make eye contact with the father figure who had made him the man he was today.

Before he could stop them, the tears fell, thick and fast, and his breath caught in his throat. Now Victor cried, marking Yakov's shirt as he sobbed into the darkness. He could taste the tears on his tongue, and willed his body to stop. But he could feel his control slipping. He was struggling every day to skate, it was too much for his body to take, and if only for tonight, his emotions had gotten the better of him.

For the first time since that night, he had thought about what was happening to him. One minute he was fine, changing before bed, and the next he was on his back, staring up at Yuuri’s beautiful, heartbroken face. He couldn’t bear it.

It was a couple of minutes before he regained composure, gently pulling out of Yakov's half embrace, and staring through the dark at his sombre face. Tears still fell, unwelcome as they cut tracks across his pale cheek. But he had a glint in his eye that Yakov had not seen for weeks.

Victor had had an idea.

 

Victor grew weaker and weaker as the final few months drew in, and when he could no longer skate, Yuuri too retired from the ice.

At seven months, they booked flights to see Victor's best friend, Christophe Giacometti in Switzerland. Victor always gushed about how gorgeous the Alps were, the thought og the rolling winter skyline against a perfect blue sky recalled fond memories of Après-ski bellini’s and hot tubs and sunsets. Of course, it was late March now, and much of the snow had melted, but he wanted nothing more than to be sat on the mountainside, sipping a glass of champagne with his second favourite skater.

Yuuri arranged the entire trip. He spent the week before they were scheduled to fly planning and re-planning hospital routes, anticipating the worst. Victor was too excited to organise, finally having something other than his illness to think about, and he called Chris four times that week to plan afternoon tea, excursions, and evening meals. Yuuri often caught him perusing the photos from his last visit, and he was glad that Victor had the distraction.

Chris, meanwhile, worked at contacting all the skaters who Victor had competed against in recent years. Since his marriage to Yuuri, Victor was much more accessible to the other skaters, who quickly realised that he was not just the cool, charming figure in his interviews. They had spent many a night during the competitive season at large tables sampling a variety of cuisines with their friends, Victor in the centre of the group, sharing stories that they all knew, but from his own perspective.

Now he was no longer alone, but that actually made his current situation worse.

Phichit Chulanont landed in Switzerland two days before Yuuri and Victor to help finalise the plans for the secret get-together, and when Yuuri and Victor boarded their first-class flight, they had no idea what was in store for them.

As the plane jolted them onto the landing strip, Yuuri grew anxious. He had watched Victor closely for the past few days, half-hoping there would be a reason for them to stay in the safety of their home city. However, Victor’s spirits had lifted tenfold since Yuuri agreed to the trip, and while he was constantly on high alert, Yuuri knew he couldn’t deny Victor this indulgence.

Victor clung to the armrests, his stretched skin retaining a sickly, grey hue due to his near constant nausea, and for a brief moment Yuuri wondered if the trip would be too much.

He was wrong. Victor's face glowed when he saw his best friend, and they held each other for a long time in the baggage collection. They drew a few stares, mostly from people speculating that it really was Christophe Giacometti and the tragically retired Victor Nikiforov. Yuuri could have sworn that he heard a few camera shutters, but he didn’t want to cause a scene. Besides, Chris concealed Victor pretty well in his long trench coat, the younger skater now significantly larger than his friend. He shouldn’t worry about the internet at a time like this.

The drive to the chalet was pleasant. The soft, rolling landscape littered with flowers soothed Victor's tired eyes. Yuuri had never visited Switzerland, but he wished that he had before now. He would never be able to see it the same after this.

When they pulled onto the large pebbled drive, Yuuri was amazed at the size of the chalet. Chris really was almost as excessive as Victor, and, not for the first time in his life, Yuuri was glad Victor had Chris to keep up with him. He also noticed the wide array of rental cars lined in front of the huge bay windows, which confused him slightly.

When the doors were thrown open, all traces of suspicion evaporated as a large cheer of 'surprise!' rang out through the cabin.

In the living room, beneath a huge banner that read Welcome Yuuri and Victor! stood all the major skaters who they had competed against in the last couple of years.

Phichit, Jean-Jaques Leroy, Yuri Plisetsky, Emil Nekola, Michele Crispino, Otabek Altin, and a few of the younger skaters in the senior division. They stood united, beneath the banner, smiling widely at the newest arrivals.

And Victor couldn't have been happier.

The party was a relaxed affair, nostalgia and champagne keeping the conversation bubbly and light. Yuuri didn’t leave Victor’s side, but Victor looked positively radiant in the social setting. Gentle music played from somewhere vaguely above them, food appeared out of thin air, and throughout the afternoon and well into the night, the room overflowed with light and laughter.

When it ended, and everybody else caught their respective flights home, Yuuri, Phichit, Chris and Victor stayed in the chalet for three more days, drinking and relaxing in the hot tub. They went for the ridiculously expensive afternoon tea that Victor had arranged over the phone, and they even took a ride up one of the mountains to watch the sunrise. It was the liveliest Yuuri had seen Victor in weeks, but he grew complacent.

The night before they were due to fly home, Yuuri was woken by Victor running to the bathroom, hands clasped over his mouth, and he knew what was coming. He stared at the blurry canopy above him, waiting.

But this time, Victor didn't return.

After a couple of minutes Yuuri ventured into the en suite to find Victor passed out on the floor, covered in vomit. Tears stung his eyes, as he silently cleaned up and carried him to bed. He carefully stretched his skinny limbs into the recovery position, checking his pulse like the doctor had shown him. He had stirred in Yuuri's arms as he was moved, which was why Yuuri hadn't called for an ambulance.

Still, he couldn't sleep with worry. He stayed up all night, watching the clock and his beloved until weak grey sunlight seeped through the gap in the curtains. Occasionally, Victor stirred, but mostly he slept, muscles relaxed and exhausted despite the rest. In the morning, Phichit knocked the door to tell them breakfast was ready.

They ate in silence, the gravity of the situation settling heavy in their chests.

This was probably going to be the last time they were all together.

The end was drawing in.

Their goodbyes at the airport were tearful, but remained somewhat optimistic. The hugs lingered, and promises were made that no one knew they could keep.

As they boarded the plane, and watched the white-tipped Alps sink lower beneath them, Victor leaned his head against Yuuri, and drifted into an exhausted sleep.

 

His final few days came sooner than expected.

Spring had just given way to summer, and the sun shone brightly into the apartment. Yuuri had brought in a special hospital bed for Victor, and made sure the room was always full of flowers and photographs and the happiest memories he could recreate.

He didn’t want this to be any harder than it was.

He read to Victor every day, or would just sit and chat with him about all the wonderful times they had had together. More often than not, Victor could only nod in response, but still he smiled when Yuuri stroked his hair away, and kissed him on the head.

Yuuri didn’t sleep for three days, shocking himself awake when he did doze off, filled with an inexplicable guilt.

On the very last day, as the sun sank into the ocean, Victor leaned up, as though to kiss Yuuri. Yuuri met him halfway, and closed his wet lashes to stop the tears from falling. He was grateful for his glasses.

"Yuuri. You are my life. I am so grateful," he whispered into Yuuri's lips, gently closing the gap before sinking back into his pillows.

"I love you, Vitya," Yuuri mouthed against his lips.

Victor shuffled awkwardly along the sheets, the rustling slightly masking his discomfort. Yuuri helped him move across the bed, and when he was satisfied, Victor patted the free space he had made.

Carefully, Yuuri lowered the side of the bed before climbing up, gently laying down onto the hard surface. He could feel the gentle vibration beneath his legs, the immense pressure behind his eyes, and the laboured breathing near his chest as he held Victor in his arms.

Before, Victor had towered above Yuuri, resting his chin on Yuuri's head when they hugged, and Yuuri had easily fit nestled in his chest.

Today, though, Victor's frame was significantly smaller than Yuuri was familiar with. He wriggled uncontrollably in his discomfort, but he sighed peacefully when Yuuri closed his arms around him.

They both knew what would come next.

"Yuuri," he whispered, closing his eyes.

“Shh, it’s okay, sleep. I’ll be here when you wake up,” Yuuri kissed Victor’s head again, his arms tightening their grip slightly.

Yuuri knew the end was near.

He closed his eyes too, in the hope that when he opened them, they would be together on the other side.

 

Chris had flown over the day after he passed, but Yuuri had not been at the airport to meet him. Instead, Yakov and Yuri stood at the gate, silently guiding him to the car. Chris knew this day was coming, but he didn’t realise just how soon it would be.

They drove in silence without even the radio to fill the tense journey through the city. Chris recognised the route, he had driven it a couple of times on his way to Victor’s when he visited. Victor usually guided him the long way around, so they could wind down the windows and be blasted with the wind from the ocean. Whether it was the dead of winter, or the middle of summer, their routine was the same. Today, though, Yakov guided the car through the twisty streets, away from the sea, and away from the lingering memory of Chris’s best friend.

When they arrived at the apartment, Chris was not surprised to find it dark, desolate, empty. He could make out a shape on the couch, hidden beneath a mountain of sheets, rising and falling slowly in the pale light from the window. Yakov was already there, throwing open the curtains and revealing the same soft couch, the same wooden coffee table, the same ridiculous TV, the photographs, the rug, everything the same as before.

And yet it would never be the same again.

Yuri, eyes glued to the floor, stalked off to the kitchen to prepare some leftovers he had brought himself. He pulled down one of the brilliantly striped plates he had selected himself off their wedding registry, and had to swallow down the tears he refused to shed in the daylight. Deliberately, he arranged the noodles on the plate, taking his time with the microwave. He wished he could silence the beeps, the robotic sound echoing ominously around the apartment.

Yakov, meanwhile, silently led Yuuri to the bathroom, and turned up the heat of the water before helping Yuuri undress. The younger man let his limbs be pulled through Victor’s shirt, defeated. Since they had taken Victor away he had shut down, unable to process or think or breathe properly. Yakov had seen Victor in slumps like this before, and only knew of one way to deal with them: time.

Chris dropped his bag, looking around for something to do. He decided to tidy, first making up the couch as a proper bed, and turning to the bedroom to strip the sheets. He had decased the pillows when Yakov appeared in the doorway. Quick as a flash, he was next to Chris, hand on his wrist, stopping him.

And Chris knew.

Because he could smell him, too.

 

The funeral was arranged for a week after his death.

And of course, Victor had planned it to the letter.

This was, by every definition of the word, supposed to be a party.

Instead of black, the guests were to wear white, and the room was filled to the ceiling with a number of bright summer flowers. The closed coffin stood beneath the window overlooking the ocean, and he had debated an open casket before catching sight of Yuuri’s devastated face. It was white, with silver handles, and was already set up when the guests arrived.

Next to the coffin stood a large print of Victor and Yuuri on their wedding day.

Victor, in a gorgeously bridal three-piece suit, gold tie glinting in the sun and a soft pink rose corsage pinned to his lapels, was laughing into the soft spring air. Yuuri was wearing the same as Victor: the same gold tie, the same pink flowers, and the same laughter lines creasing his eyes beneath his glasses. Together, they held each other in a ballroom pose, arms outstretched, eyes turned to each other, lovingly lost in the moment. Pink petals framed their faces, and what the photo didn’t reveal was Mari Katsuki and Phichit in the cherry blossom trees, shaking the branches to shower them in natural confetti.

The room buzzed with polite conversation until Yuuri turned up. When he did, led by his parents between the seats, the room fell silent.

The service was given in English, to compensate for the varied nationalities of the skaters in attendance. The soft-spoken woman delivering the service would pause at intervals, sympathetic eyes roaming the room before landing on Yuuri, who could hardly focus on the beautiful words he had helped her write. Yuuri’s eyes remained fixed on the impersonal wood of the coffin, the last thing he wanted to imagine his husband in.

He himself had prepared a eulogy, the paper crumpled in his hands as he listened to her anonymous stories of the Victor that everyone knew. The brilliant, vibrant, and selfless man who had loved his husband, and his dog, and the ice.

When it was Yuuri’s turn, and he stood up to deliver his speech, he screwed the paper up, and stuffed it into his pocket.

He paused for a moment, a lifetime, before releasing the breath he had held since walking to the stand.

“Victor. How do you sum up a lifetime in a few minutes?” The words came broken, and Yuuri laughed at his own voice.

“Well, you would have loved the flowers. Of course you would, you chose them. And of course, the seagulls are so loud I can hardly hear myself think.” This earned a quiet laugh across the room. Yuuri closed his eyes. He paused, unsure if he could continue.

But he did.  

“Victor. Vitya, you were the love of my life. You are the love of my life. I am so grateful every day that we met, if only we had met sooner. I knew who you were, of course,” he paused for Chris’s gentle laugh from the front row, nodding in understanding.

“I have spent the past three days trying to figure out how to say goodbye to you, and this is all I could come up with. I will never be able to say goodbye to you. You taught me that love is all around me. You taught me what it means to feel safe. And you taught me, most of all, that I am capable of a love so great, and so painful, that I can even leave you at a loss for words.”

He took a deep breath, leaning against the wooden stand for a moment of support. His lungs burned with the need to scream, to cry about how unfair it all was, to beg for him to be there.

But he didn’t.

“I am so deeply sorry that you were robbed of your life, but I am more sorry that I am stuck here without you.”

That was more than he thought he had been capable of saying. Tears cascaded down his cheeks, splashing on his glasses as he walked back to his seat. Victor’s mother squeezed his shoulder, and his own mother took his hand in hers. As the curtain was drawn around the white panelled wood, Yuuri couldn’t bear to look. His ears were filled with the piano that echoed around the room, disguising the mechanical drop of the coffin.

The room welled with the tears and the loss.

This was goodbye.

 

After the wake, and after two bottles of wine, Yuuri stumbled into the dark apartment, flicking the switch by the door.

The light burst into life, reflecting off the coffee table and the TV, and the couch that Chris had been sleeping on that week. His blankets were still piled clumsily on the edge of the cushions, precariously hovering on the edge. He rescued them, placing them gently on the table, and taking a seat. Staring around him, the eerie silence eased his headache, but it only emphasised the reality of his situation.

It finally dawned on Yuuri that he was alone.

His feet dragged his exhausted body to the bedroom, collapsing on the duvet and kicking his shoes off awkwardly. They fell with a dull thud, one by one before he rolled clumsily under the sheets. He didn’t bother to change, instead loosening his tie and creasing his smart trousers as he curled himself around Victor’s pillow. Face pressed into the soft void, he inhaling deeply to feel something, anything.

He could still smell him there. A combination of apple shampoo, musky cologne, and his natural scent lingered in the sheets. The lonely warmth he felt under the piles of fabric was softened by the intoxicating scent. His eyes closed of their own accord, and he drifted into a dreamless sleep.

 

For the following week, Yuuri barely ate, barely slept, barely lived.

After that first night, he had taken a shower, and relocated to the couch. He left the bedsheets, crumpled in a pile around Victor’s pillows and pyjamas. His phone sat in front of him, a constant stream of messages which he just watched appear and vanish as his screen died. Victor’s phone, too, lay on the table, but when he couldn’t bear to read RIP Living Legend Nikiforov any more, he stuffed it into the middle of the couch cushions, struggling to forget it was there.

When Yuuri ignored another call from Yakov, he turned up, again throwing the curtains open and again dragging Yuuri to the shower. Yuuri failed to mention he had already taken a shower, but as he would soon grow to realise, this was Yakov’s go-to get well method. While he appreciated the effort, the warm water only caused his muscles to tense further, and the only bath products he had left were Victor’s. He couldn’t bear to use them, so he waited a reasonable amount of time. His eyes remained unfocussed as he tried hard not to remember the play fights over who was to shower first, which usually resulted in them showering together, pressed against the tiles as the steam flushed their skin.

Eventually, he climbed out and dried off, slipping into the clothes Yakov had stripped him of ten minutes earlier. He could smell something from the kitchen, and when he returned, Yakov had prepared a cup of instant noodles and a cup of strong coffee. Yuuri managed one mouthful of each, before turning away to stare blankly out of the window. When they grew cold, Yakov cleared them away and left.

A few hours later, when evening fell, Mila let herself in, with a box of pizza and a pack of beers. The same thing happened when she plated up; Yuuri took one sip, and one bite, before laying down and staring at the black TV screen. She offered to turn it on, but Yuuri shook his head. After an hour, she stroked his head and left him in the dark.

Yuuri didn’t sleep that night. Or the next. But still the Russian team, like clockwork, turned up at the apartment and methodically tried to get him to eat more than a bite. The next morning he did drink a glass of water with Georgi, but the days blurred as he refused the rest of their attempts.

A full week later, exactly seven days after the funeral, it was Yuri’s turn to visit. For the third time that week, he warmed the pirozhki his grandfather had made, and poured a glass of soda for the Japanese man, who was starting to look ill. Again, he placed these on the table in front of him, and as he had done for the past three days, he didn’t touch either.

The teenager could feel tears stinging his eyes, and he willed them back, desperate to maintain his composure while the man in front of him lost control. Something snapped, though, and he angrily wiped his eyes before turning to the older man.

“He would have hated you for this,” he spat, storming out of the apartment, unable to stop the tears that burst from his eyes as the door slammed shut behind him.

Yuuri knew he was right, but he was broken. He wasn’t sure he could be fixed. It hurt too much, for him to be here alive while Victor was-

He couldn’t think.

He lay on the couch for minutes, or hours, before an envelope slipped through the door.

Yuuri knew their mailman delivered exclusively at 9:30am, but it was dark outside, so it couldn’t have been morning. This was the only reason he ventured over to the door. He popped his head out into the hallway, glancing left and right to find it was deserted. Next, he bent down to retrieve the envelope, immediately recognising the swirling script in which his name was written.

His heart stopped.

There was even a little heart above the ‘i’ in his name, the apartment’s address carefully printed beneath the cursive scribble, still retaining the soft curve of his hand.

He slammed the door shut, hungrily tearing the letter open, almost ripping the contents in half in desperation.

It couldn’t be.

 

My dearest Yuuri,

If you are reading this then, sadly, the inevitable has happened. First things first, I am so sorry for the hurt I know I am causing you.

Secondly, this means that the next step of your adventure is on the horizon. While it may not seem it now, you will be okay. I know this because I know you, and you are one of the strongest human beings I have ever met. You have shown me that in these last few months of heartache. Again, words cannot fully convey how much I hate myself for that. I know you will forgive me, of course, because you are so wonderful.

Now, every letter must have a purpose, and while I would love nothing more than to gush about how wonderful you are, I know that will be of little comfort to you now.

My purpose is this: I am to set you with a task that you must complete, in order to bring you to the next step.

So, your task, for the next two weeks, until we meet again, is to rekindle your second greatest love. You are to dig out the skates you hid in the bottom of our wardrobe. You are to walk down to the rink, and you are to spend at least one hour on the ice.

One hour is all I am asking, and if you are successful, we shall see each other again very shortly.

All my love,

Your Victor.

 

P.S. I Love You x

 

Anger pulsed in his veins, throbbing in his temples as the words swam across the page before him. The letter, and the photographs and ornaments that littered the sideboard were on the floor, the large vase shattering on impact. Venom itched in his skin as his fist connected with the drywall, once, twice, three times. Four times. Blood splattered on the delicate grey paintwork, but still his hand hit again and again.

A cry of frustration burned in his throat, but he couldn’t hear above the red that clouded his senses.

How dare he?

The coffee table lay on its side; his plate crashed to the floor, tipping food and broken blue ceramic across the ground. Yellow and blue fabric was torn to shreds in the darkness in front of him, a burst of feathers obscuring his vision. The red faded to pink, and the anger that seethed in Yuuri’s nerves was dissipating with his every move.

After what can’t have been more than ten minutes, Yuuri curled into a ball on the couch, staring out at the destruction he had caused in their apartment. Pressing his bleeding knuckles to his eyelids, he descended into the first panic attack he had had in months. Unable to control his breathing, he allowed the panic to overwhelm him, pounding in his head and his ears until it was too much.

There were hands on his shoulder, stroking his hair away from his face.

But they were never there.

And the tears flowed, thick and fast, as he lost himself to the night.

 

Despite his best attempts, the sun still rose the next day. The birds still sang outside his window, and his heart was still beating.

It can’t have been later than 6am.

He sat up, assessing the damage he had caused in his fit of rage. The apartment wasn’t in as bad a state as he had remembered, the only irreparable damage was superficial. His knuckles burned as he stretched his fingers.

Eventually, he started cleaning up, ignoring the paper that was lying obvious against the dark grey rug. Victor’s writing was so large he could practically read it from this distance. His heart sank slightly. He knew he would have to read it again. And he wasn’t ready.

Instead, he swept the broken plate and vase into the dustpan, replaced the coffee table, and collected all the stuffing from the cushions he had torn apart. None of it was salvageable, not even the wooden frames of the photos he had scattered across the room, glass glittering all across the floor in the sunlight. He carefully brushed off the photographs as he found them, admiring the smiling faces staring back at him through the glossy prints. The brilliant colours were the first thing that Yuuri had actually focussed on in days, and he could feel the hint of a smile in his chest.

When he could no longer ignore it, Yuuri turned back to the letter. He sank to the floor, and this time deliberately read the words again. Anger welled in his chest, and when he felt he might lose control again, he closed his eyes and counted to ten. It took him several minutes to actually read the letter properly, and for him to understand what Victor was telling him. Once he had made it all the way through without having to supress his anger, he read it again, and again, and again, until the only thing he felt was a deep ache in his stomach.

The voice was so real, he could practically hear Victor chiding him gently with the words on the page, showering him with unnecessary compliments, kissing him again and again to emphasise his point. He was lucky he had his glasses on, otherwise his tears would have smudged the ink.

Victor was not coming back. Yuuri knew that much.

But he was never going to leave him, either.

 

Victor wanted him to skate again. It had been months since he had last set foot on the ice, at least six.

Yuuri had been sure that when Victor died, he would never return to his career. No, when he had retired that was it. He hadn’t thought much further than that.

He paced the apartment with the letter in his hand, deliberating with no one in particular about what Victor wanted him to do.

What he hadn’t noticed last night was the added weight to the envelope, which was lying discarded by the door. As the sun moved across the sky, and stretched across the floor towards the opposite wall, the light caught something in the torn-up paper. Yuuri froze, staring at the little scrap of metal that winked at him from the floor.

He dropped to the floor, scooping up the paper and pulling out a small brass key, with a little note attached to it.

For you, my Yuuri x

It was obvious what it was for, but it was too soon.

Today was too soon.

 

That night, he dug through their shared wardrobe, searching in the dark until his hands came in contact with the heavy boots Victor had bought him as a wedding present. On the inside, he admired the gold lettering against the black boot, VN + YK, stroking it fondly with his forefinger.

His hand had ached all day, but he relished the pain. This was the first thing he had felt in weeks.

He knew that the rink would be empty in an hour, and he was itching to know what Victor had meant by ‘until we meet again’. Was he planning on making this a regular occurrence?

How long had he planned this for?

How long could he keep it up?

Watching the hour tick away from the floor, he read and re-read the letter until he could recite it from heart. He admired the curve of Victor’s hand as he wrote his name, and he particularly liked the way ‘adventure’ looked on the page. The lettering was joined together, and the light blue pen he had used bled through the paper slightly. It was a special printed paper, with a gentle pattern along the border. Yuuri wondered how he had missed this, staring through the paper until the alarm on his watch beeped.

The rink was empty.

He managed to put his coat on, and take one step out of the apartment, before turning back and slamming the door shut.

He couldn’t do it.

Not tonight.

 

One week passed after he had received his letter from Victor. For the first three days, he didn’t mention it to anyone, still refusing food and unable to sleep in his bed. But something was different.

Mila was the first to notice the colour in his cheeks, the way his eyes watched her face suspiciously, considering her every word carefully. She called Georgi as she had left the apartment, asking if he had noticed. Eventually word had spread around the Russian skaters, until it was Yakov’s turn to visit.

Yakov sat on the couch, watching Yuuri sip the water bottle he had demanded be drunk before he left. The skin on his knuckles was still red raw and cut to shreds, but no one mentioned it. Instead, Yakov focussed on his expressions. Yuuri’s eyes were quicker than before, flitting between the photos on the wall, and something in the darkness of the bedroom. He seemed conflicted, debating something, and Yakov was concerned.

“Yuuri. You wouldn’t do something stupid, would you?” He asked bluntly, turning directly to face the young skater. Yuuri blinked, confused at first, tears filled his eyes as he understood what Yakov was thinking.

“N-no, I would. I would never-” He stopped, taking a deep breath before closing his eyes. “I could never do that to him.”

That satisfied Yakov, and he huffed his approval. They sat in silence until Yuuri finished his water bottle. As Yakov stood up to leave, Yuuri reached out and grabbed his arm.

They both froze. This was the first contact Yuuri had given in weeks. Yakov stared, before Yuuri’s arm snapped back.

“I just, there was something, something happened,” he muttered, scrambling to the bedroom. Yakov waited, until Yuuri returned with the letter. “Do you know about this?”

Yakov scanned the letter, his face blank as he took in the words on the page. His expression gave nothing away, and he shrugged.

“That is his handwriting,” he confirmed, stroking his chin in consideration. Yuuri waited with bated breath for Yakov’s response, desperate to have the letter back in his hands. Eventually, Yakov sighed.

“I don’t know what kind of game he has planned, but I know that he didn’t mean to upset you any more. Whatever this is, it is incredibly selfish of him to keep you hanging,” Yakov said bluntly.

Yuuri took back the letter, and re-read the words he had memorised.

“He’s not selfish,” he whispered, eyes fixed on the final sentiment of the letter. Yakov just sighed.

“Yuuri, don’t get so hung up trying to hold onto Victor you forget to live.”

Hearing his name for the first time in weeks stung, but the warmth of Yakov’s palm gently squeezing his shoulder softened the blow slightly. Yuuri just nodded.

Once again, Yuuri was alone in his apartment. He sat on the couch, with his coat on his back and his skates sat on the coffee table, watching his watch again, waiting for the alarm that was due to ring every single night at exactly the same time.

Today, when his watch beeped at him, he grabbed his skates and ran out of the apartment.

He ran the length of the hall, and down the stone steps into the lobby. From there, his momentum was too great for him to stop himself. His legs carried him the familiar route to the rink, which loomed over him menacingly. The sky was red with the sunset behind him, purple clouds scanning the sky as it faded to dark blue. As he closed the distance between himself and the building, he wished that he hadn’t left. He longed for the apartment, the familiar space less painful as he adjusted to being alone. The large blue doors that led into the rink, the ones that Victor always held open for him, were cold when his hands came in contact with them. He unlocked the door quickly, worried his nerve would break at the last moment.

It didn’t. He stepped into the automatic fluorescent lights, walking along the halls to the ice with his eyes glued to the floor. In his head, he couldn’t stop the barrage of mental images that he had always associated with the rink.

Victor pulling him into the small, dark coves that jutted out of the walls at random intervals, pressing his back against the cool brickwork as he kissed him deeply, leaving Yuuri red-faced before he had even set foot on the ice. Linked fingers swinging through the air as a disgusted Yuri shoved between them, breaking them apart only for a split second. Mila re-joining their hands, kissing their knuckles before skipping underneath them to lift Yuri into a fireman’s lift. Victor’s delicate laugh, his arm pulling Yuuri close to him as they approached the cool ice with every step.

When he reached the main stadium, he froze in the doorway.

The smell of the ice hit him first, cool in his nose and his lungs. It had been too long, and it caught in his throat as he walked towards it. White, and fresh, his heartbeat increased with the memory it recalled.

Victor always beat him to the ice, holding his arms out to welcome him. Yuuri couldn’t bear to look at the white expanse any more, instead focussing on his boots.

His fingers worked seamlessly, the muscles lacing from memory. When he was done, he lifted himself to his feet, the weight of the skates awkward on his feet. He realised he hadn’t eaten a full meal in weeks, so he would not be as strong as he used to be.

Hesitantly, his right foot stepped onto the ice first, then his left, and his knees worked to balance his body against the familiar unsteadiness.

He pushed himself into the centre of the ice. The metallic sound of the skates replaced the silence of the empty rink, and filled his head again with the memory of their last time on the ice. Despite himself, tears escaped his lashes, staining his cheeks as he moved.

Victor had tried to pull Yuuri along with him, skating backwards before tripping over his own feet. His body had crashed to the ground, but he had refused to get back up.

No.

Yuuri shook the image from his head. Instead, he thought back to their final exhibition skate, where Victor had effortlessly pulled him into a lift, Yuuri’s heart soaring as the music built to a crescendo. The strong hands that clutched his arms, refusing to let him fall, were warm under his costume, gently pulling him down until his skates were level on the ice. Hands holding, guiding, gliding across the ice as they jumped in tandem, as one.

That was better.

It didn’t stop the tears, but it was better.

His arms were pushing him forward, leading him into the jump they had done together following the lift. Only one pair of skates reconnected with the ice, but that didn’t matter. His limbs ached already, and his lungs burned with the physical exertion. But here, now, as he watched night draw darker from the large windows, he could forget his thoughts, if only for this moment.

After a while, Yuuri couldn’t ignore the rumbling in his stomach. The muscles in his legs screamed, but his heart was racing, exhilarated as he was to be back on the ice. His fingers wiped beneath his glasses, smudging the tears that he couldn’t contain across his flushed skin.

Checking his watch, he laughed involuntarily. He had only been skating for twenty minutes.

“So much for that stamina,” he shook his head, again addressing no one in particular.

Or, addressing the one person who couldn’t hear him.

Exhaustion settled in his bones as he skated off the ice, a yawn escaping his lips despite himself. The tears he had shed on the ice had lifted the weight on his chest that had grown worse since the letter, and as he unlaced his boots, he noticed that for the first time in a long time, he could breathe.

He thought over the instructions he had been given.

He only needed to skate for one hour before the next step.

As he walked back to the apartment, his stomach growled angrily, and he sniffed the warm air hungrily. A bakery that was just closing up had spread out what food they had left, and Yuuri crossed the street eagerly to select a couple of vegetable pirozhki and a donut for his dinner. Before he had even paid, his teeth sunk into the slightly hardened bread, his stomach immediately grateful for the sustenance.

He clumsily thanked the baker in Russian, before crossing the road again to walk close to the ocean front. He devoured the first bun, wrapping the second with his dessert for later, focussing instead on the water breaking against the stone wall beneath him. The sound really was relaxing, and the cry of the seagulls combined with the salty air reminded him of Victor.

The walk to the apartment felt much longer than the run to the rink, obviously, but Yuuri’s aching legs were eager to rest. Eventually, he made it to the building, across the lobby and into the elevator. He nibbles at his second pirozhki before he reaches his floor, and he almost collapses in a heap there and then. His apartment is dark, but he doesn’t care about that.

All he had managed to remove was his coat and one shoe before his body gives in, and he falls into a deep and dreamless sleep.

 

The next day, he wakes mid-afternoon to find Yuri sitting on the end of the couch, scrolling through his phone. Yuri had not visited him since the night with the letter, so Yuuri was surprised to see him.

Neither one of them mentions the skates.

“Afternoon,” Yuuri muttered, sitting up despite his muscles screaming against the action. His stomach growls, loudly, and he laughs humourlessly.

Yuri stares, unsure on how to deal with the weird mechanical laughter.

On the table, Yuri has left a sandwich and a can of soda next to the discarded bakery wrapper, which Yuuri hungrily devours. First the sandwich is demolished, and then he drinks the can dry, rummaging in the paper bag next to it for the slightly stale donut he had neglected to eat the night before.

Shock still etched onto his face, Yuri pushes Yuuri back, scattering bread crumbs across both of them and smudging icing against Yuuri’s cheek. The older man wipes involuntarily, taking another bite as he stares at the stunned teenager.

“What the hell’s the matter with you?” He demands angrily, confusion knitting his brows together beneath his too long fringe. Yuuri laughs again.

“I don’t know,” Yuuri answers honestly. For the first time in a long time, his vision isn’t clouded with pain. He can feel the burn in his muscles, weakened by inactivity, and the stinging skin stretched across his knuckles smarts when he clenches his fist.

He feels alive.

And his body is crying for everything it has been denied over the past few weeks.

Yuri still glances at Yuuri while he scrolls through his phone, unsure on what to do next. The teenager is scared to leave, making excuses to remain in the apartment until the early evening, sitting upside down on the couch scrolling lazily through social media.

The silence is broken when Yuuri’s watch, under his pile of abandoned clothes, starts to beep.

The rink is empty.

Yuri jumps, before playing it off casually. Yuuri just watches the teenager in the faded light of the room. He looks older now than he ever has. His face has matured considerably since they first met, his jawline sharpened and his cheekbones enhanced slightly. While his hair falls over most of his face, the eye that is visible to Yuuri looks dark, as though he hasn’t been sleeping, and Yuuri feels a pang of guilt.

He had been so wrapped up in his own pain that he hasn’t considered the impact of Victor’s death on anyone else around him.

But the apology that bubbles in his chest refuses to escape his lips. Try as he might, he can’t bring himself to ask the teenager what is wrong, or how he can make it better.

No, he knows he needs to resolve his own issues first.

Yuri decides that now is a decent time to leave, stalking out of the apartment with a muttered “bye” as the door swings shut.

Yuuri waits for ten minutes before leaving for the rink. He craves the exhaustion, the sweat, the satisfying burn as he pushes himself harder than he ever has before.

Today will be better, he will be able to go harder, last for longer.

And he stays at the rink for two hours.

 

Every night that week, Yuuri waits until he is left alone, and the second his alarm beeps, he jogs down to the rink, playing on the ice with moves and jumps he could easily land.

Most nights he cries, playing the songs of Victor’s routines in his head as he walks through the step sequence, but his visits always end the same way: a visit to the bakery and crashing on the couch.

He loses track of the days, but two weeks after his first letter was delivered, as promised, there is a knock on the door. Outside, rain playfully splatters against the window, printing patterns on the floor and the couch as it falls.

Groggy, Yuuri forces himself up, glancing at his watch and groaning. It’s 9:30am, and that must be the postman with a package.

But he hasn’t ordered anything.

He glances at his watch again, and realises it’s Tuesday.

Clambering over the sofa eagerly, he yanks the door open and smiles at the small box in the old man’s hand, working hard to refrain from tearing it from him.

Once the door had shut, he ripped open the packaging, before blinking at the contents.

Two boxes of hair dye, one peroxide and the other a sea blue colour, a packet of microwave popcorn, and Howl’s Moving Castle on DVD. Under all of this was a familiar envelope, with the same loopy writing in the same blue ink.

He crossed the floor to the couch, carefully placing the box on the coffee table before opening the envelope and settling into the cushions.

 

Dearest, Darling Yuuri,

Since we last spoke, you were given a very simple task. If you are reading this, it means that you completed that task, and if I know you, you did so with flying colours.

We met each other not on the ice, but in a dimly lit banquet hall, filled with our competitors and mentors, inhibitions thrown to the wind, and cheeks tinged pink from champagne (too much for you, if you remember correctly). You underestimate how grateful I am that you got as drunk as you did, and worked up the courage to not only pull me into a well-executed dance off (which, of course, you won) but to ask if I would be your coach.

Of course, you forgot the next day, and I waited to hear from you for what felt like a lifetime. If only I had just contacted you directly, then of course we would have met sooner, and we would have had at least one more year together.

I digress. The ice was where you realised the true Yuuri that lay dormant beneath the surface, the Yuuri that I fell in love with all those months before. And I wanted you to know that while I may not be with you, you will always have the memory of me, and most of me was laid bare for you on the ice. While I can’t be there to guide you through the step sequences myself, your love for me is enough that you can build your own programs, and I hope that soon you can return to the ice in a spectacular comeback.

While it is painful to remember the very last time we spent on the ice together, I will instead remind you of the last time we skated our exhibition together at the last Grand Prix Final. You beat me for Gold, but that did not matter when we took to the ice together after the medal ceremony. Your grace and trust in me gave me the strength to lift you and hold you in front of hundreds of thousands of people, all over the world. People who have repeatedly told us that we inspire them, but there is no we. You are the inspiration, Yuuri. You are the love that guided us across the ice.

This wonderful trip down memory lane does have a purpose, but you will have to bear with me on this one.

I started skating when I was 7 years old. That is very young indeed, and I was denied the chance at a true childhood.

You, however, started skating much later. You were allowed the opportunity to choose a childhood, to choose a life that was not just your sport.

I do not regret the choices I made, but I do remember a late-night conversation we had sometime last year, in which your only regret was not living your teenage years to their fullest. While your sister snuck off to concerts late at night, and dyed her hair ridiculous colours, you were in bed or on the ice, pushing yourself to achieve the best, to be the best.

What I offer you is a second chance. You have my personal favourite brand of peroxide, and a box of your favourite colour in a hair dye. Tonight, pour yourself a glass of wine, pop on your favourite childhood film, eat some popcorn, and dye your hair a ridiculous colour.

Yes, it will probably ruin that gorgeous head of hair you have, and yes, you may grow to regret it in the morning. But you only live once, right?

Be a stupid teenager, just this once.

Lovingly yours, forever and always,

Victor.

 

P.S. I love you xxx

 

This had to be a joke.

He read the letter again, deliberating over every word carefully, to make sure he wasn’t going insane.

Victor wanted him to dye his hair blue.

He laughed when he re-read the instructions.

This had to be a joke.

He packed the box back up, and lay down on the couch to re-read his letter again.

And again.

Until, once again, he didn’t need to read it any more.

And instead of being incredibly angry, Yuuri just laughed into the void.

Because this was exactly the kind of childish and impulsive thing Victor thrived on.

 

Yuuri closed the curtains as the sun set, sitting alone on the couch and staring at the box he had stared at all day.

He knew he had to do it.

In the fridge was a bottle of wine, how had Victor known? Perhaps he planted it there knowing Yuuri wouldn’t touch it. When he pulled it out, there was a little sticky note with a love heart drawn on it, and Yuuri again laughed.

He couldn’t help himself.

He poured a glass and leaned against the stove, sipping the acidic liquid sheepishly. He never really liked wine very much, but he could make an exception.

“Why blue?” Yuuri asked, stepping back into the living room and examining the colourful box of dye. “Oh right, it matches,” his eye caught the colour of his frames as he clicked the lamp into life.

He considered the task at hand, sipping his way through not one but two glasses of wine, his vision growing fuzzy as he did so. He hadn’t had any visitors today, and all he had eaten was a slice of toast, so the alcohol instantly went to his head.

Why couldn’t he dye his hair?

What was stopping him?

Maybe it would look amazing.

Maybe not.

Before he could hesitate, he grabbed the first box and tripped to the bathroom, where he carefully prepared the peroxide in the plastic dish provided, and painted it across his scalp. The concoction burned terribly, but the buzz from the alcohol helped him to ignore it. To distract himself, he trudged back to the living room and rescued the popcorn, reading the instructions as carefully as his fuzzy eyes could manage, and throwing the paper into the microwave before pushing the buttons randomly. He hoped he wouldn’t burn the apartment down.

Next on the list was the DVD. Yuuri had last watched this film with Victor, one month before he worst. When the TV flickered into life, he saw the brilliant animation that displayed the DVD menu.

Perhaps if he watched it in Japanese, it wouldn’t be so hard.

When the film started, he heard the beeping from the microwave. He didn’t bother to pause the TV as he retrieved his snack, and, nestled on the couch with a towel around his shoulders, he focussed on the film as it played out.

Halfway through his phone timer buzzed, and this time he did pause the film to wash the dye from his hair. He watched as the foam swirled in the bathtub, leaning over the side as the hot shower burned his head, the steam throwing the chemical smell deep into his lungs. He coughed, but laughed at the yellow strands that fell in front of his face.

When he towel-dried his hair, and wiped the steam from the mirror to assess the damage, he almost fell to the floor laughing. His dark black hair had been stripped of most of its pigment, and in its place a patchy mess of yellow and orange sat on his head. He did have enough to bleach his hair again, and after a quick Google decided this would be the best course of action. So, he quickly dried his hair and repainted the strands, his scalp now immune to the burn, before returning to his cooled popcorn and film.

Another glass of wine later and his hair was ready for its second wash. This time the bleach had worked much better, the yellow now a near white, and the orange faded to a yellowish hue. Close enough, he thought, as he prepared the dark blue mix for the second step. Instead of covering all of his hair, he decided to start by covering the orangey-yellow patches, imaging a crazy but interesting highlight. When he was satisfied, he returned to watch the end of his film.

He was glad that he had decided to watch it in Japanese, as it truly reminded him of home to hear his mother tongue from the screen. He did feel homesick, though.

Ignoring the fact that his phone was currently in his pocket, counting down until the dye was ready, he started rummaging amongst the couch cushions, he searched for his phone, hoping to call Mari or his mom, or even Minako. Anyone who was willing to forget the fact that he hadn’t been in contact since the funeral. He cringed at his selfishness, but quickly recovered when his hands came in contact with the cool glass screen.

When he pulled it out, he recognised the pink and gold case, and froze.

This was Victor’s.

He dropped it instantly, as though it burned, before scanning the room with his drunk eyes.

Where was his phone?

He walked around, searching behind the books and photographs, opening drawers, before a noise in his pocket made him jump.

He had had his phone the whole time, obviously. How did he think he had he set the timer?

Laughter filled his ears, his own inhuman laughter as he realised his stupidity, and he struggled to breathe through the wheezes.

For the third time that night, he needed to wash his hair, and he worked the shampoo into his roots to completely strip his hair of the blue foam he had painted onto it.

When he was done, and his towel was tinged blue, he shook his hair out in front of the mirror, and could feel a laugh building in his stomach. Tears clouded his vision, as he clung to the sink for support, uncontrollably giggling despite himself. The noise echoed off the tiled walls, bouncing back to his blue blonde reflection.

But the laughter slowly melted into tears, and instead his fingers grew white from clinging too hard to stop himself from falling backwards.

He dragged his feet across the floor, through the living room which was filled with the scent of popcorn and wine, and through to the bedroom where, for the first time in almost a month, he collapsed in a heap into the sheets. He pulled the duvet around his face, clinging to the fabric in the hopes it would morph into his human. The sheets still smelled like him, although the scent had faded slightly in the passing weeks.

Tears stained the pillow where Victor’s head was supposed to be, Yuuri begging his body to fall back into the blank, numb state it had been after the funeral, because this was too much. His heart felt as though it was breaking in his chest, and he struggled to breathe underneath the mountain of covers that Victor always insisted on. He hadn’t slept in here for weeks, but he was paralyzed, intoxicated with Victor’s smell and wishing more than anything that he was not alone.

No, he didn’t just wish that he wasn’t alone. He wished that He had never left.

When his eyes burned and his heart ached, at 3am, he drifted into a restless, painful sleep. That night, his dreams were warm, and hot, and he could feel Victor’s breath on his neck as he pressed his body into Yuuri’s, the sheets discarded as desperate lips were latched onto his.

He jolted himself awake, confused and embarrassed at himself. Then the headache pulsed in his temples, before he ran to the bathroom to vomit. It was only when he straightened up to brush his teeth that he remembered what he had done, and the unrecognisable reflection stared blankly at his hangover.

He needed fresh air. It was barely noon, and he knew the skaters would be out of the rink for lunch. He hadn’t skated yesterday, hadn’t left the house, but he couldn’t bear another minute alone with the sheets and his thoughts.

Besides, he was too focussed on his hangover to forget about how terrible his hair looked. So, he slipped on his trainers and his coat, and throwing his skates into a gym bag, he deliberately made his way along the seafront to the rink.

He had been right about the other skaters; they were out to lunch when he arrived. After lacing his boots carefully, he stepped onto the ice, his weak legs holding their own as he pushed into the centre of the rink. He had finished warming up when the other skaters returned. Yuri was the first on the ice, and he almost laughed at Yuuri’s terrible hair style, before biting his tongue. He had learned not to just snap at the Japanese man, no matter how much he wanted to mock him. Mila was next, and she skated straight over to ruffle Yuuri’s hair, complimenting him on the shade. Yuuri blushed a little, but nodded his acceptance. And then Georgi joined them, admiring his stance despite the break from the ice.

A clap echoed across the rink, and the skaters joined Yakov on the edge. He delivered instructions to each skater, Yuuri included, and they respectively worked through their tasks. Yakov was impressed that Yuuri had worked so hard over the past couple of weeks, and was now close to skating at the competitive level again.

While Yuuri didn’t realise it, Yakov had been watching him ever since the first letter had arrived.

 

Weeks passed, and Yuuri’s dye started to grow out. Mila offered to re-dye it for him, but he just refused. He was getting more and more powerful with every day, and Yakov almost asked for him to give back the key to the rink.

Almost.

Something had snapped in Yuuri, and his performance was charged with an electricity Yakov had never seen before. Yuuri was pushing his body beyond its limits, but it was working.

Every day he skated hard enough to forget the missing warmth on the other side of the bed, so that he just collapsed in a heap and slept dreamlessly through the night.

He had stopped sleeping on the sofa, instead bundling himself in Victor’s clothes, and the bedsheets, losing himself in the mixture of Victor’s scent and the warmth they offered. He would read his letters, again and again, before falling asleep with them crumpled in his fists.

It was a whole month after his care package that Yuuri received his next correspondence from Victor. He nearly tore the arm off the poor mailman, who shook his head as he turned away from the apartment. Yuuri noticed the letter was taped to the front of the box, and instead of his name, Victor had written Read Me in his feminine hand.

Yuuri carefully peeled the envelope away, before pulling out three sheets of paper. The weight of the envelope was greater than before, and he knew this letter was going to be longer than the others.

He stood at the door, with the box tucked under his elbow, as he carefully read the letter.

 

My darling Yuuri,

It has been a while since our last conversation. I am sorry about that.

I needed to give you some time, both to get used to your crazy new hair colour and Yakov’s new program. If he is right, and he usually is, you should be set to make your comeback this season instead of next. I know you already know this, but please feel free to use any of the costumes I didn’t leave for Yurio. Lord knows I don’t need them now, but they were incredibly expensive and it would be a shame to watch them gather dust.

You are so incredibly patient, and you always were even when I tested you. Do you remember the dishes last winter, when I forgot to do them, and you refused until we had none left? And I brought new plates, and you had laughed so hard because of course I would rather buy new plates than fight about the dishes for a day longer. We had quite a lot of fun smashing those up in the back alley behind the block, and I know that we didn’t clean them up properly. To this day, I can guarantee that there are shards still hiding behind the large bins there.

That was right before dear Makkachin passed. He was such a lovely dog. Of course, he always loved you more than he loved me when you moved in. I know you will deny it, even now, but you used to always sneak him the last steamed bun, carefully cut up after the last time. It’s very possible that he loved you more than I do, despite my best efforts to love you the most. He was lovely and loyal, but of course all good things must come to an end.

That day was the second hardest of my life. The first being, of course, my final day with you, which in my timeline hasn’t actually happened yet.

But you, you kind and gentle soul, you were there for me when I was at my lowest. I have never had to live through a loss as great as his, but you had done this before with Vicchan. And the words you whispered to me as we carried him home have stuck with me since.

You promised that he was there, still, and that all the beautiful things in the world can’t possibly have an end. And while he may have passed to the other side, his suffering was over and he would wait patiently for my return.

Sadly, that has come much sooner than anticipated. But I hope that you live with that same sentiment in your mind every single day. Just know that me and Makkachin, and precious little Vicchan, will patiently wait for your return to us. I hope that we have to wait an entire lifetime before we see you, and when we can be together again, well, I look forward to that day with all my heart.

In the meantime, I don’t wish for you to be alone. And while Yakov, Yurio, your friends and your family are all going to help you through this, I know what that lonely apartment needs.

There is an address in the box, and the person there will know who you are.

My love, my life, I miss you every day, but I know that you miss me more.

Until next time,

Victor x

 

P.S. I love you xxxx

 

Yuuri’s eyes stung with tears at the words on the final page. This must have been some time near the end. Victor grew desperate in his final few weeks, pleading for his life to be different. It was hard for Yuuri to talk him down from his emotional outbursts, harder still to deny that he wanted nothing more than for that to be the case.

He shook his head, turning the box in his hands, searching for the end of the tape to open it carefully. When he found it, he picked it off, and opened the box to find a little red collar, a lead, and the aforementioned address.

He pulled the address up on Google Maps, before grabbing the car keys that had gathered dust on their hook by the door, and heading down to the parking garage.

 

He pulled up at the house that his phone had led him to, marvelling at the spectacular rolling farmland that surrounded the little cottage. Cows stood grazing lazily in the sun, sheep dotted across the further fields, and the sound of horses could be heard from the stables as the car rolled past. With the sound of his door slamming shut, a boy, slightly younger than Yurio, popped his head out of the stables.

He ran to the house, shouting in Russian, but Yuuri vaguely understood his yells.

“He’s here, mama.” Or something to that effect.

A portly woman stepped down from the house, her floral dress covered in a yellowing apron, and her brown hair scraped off her sun-kissed face. The image was too surreal, too typical for Yuuri to believe he was really here. Her hands were behind her back, and she carefully stepped down to meet him on the drive.

“Mr. Nikiforov,” she smiled, nodding at him as she approached. Her arms wriggled as she walked, and Yuuri knew what she was hiding.

In her arms was a small brown poodle, fur slightly darker than Makkachin’s but lighter than Vicchan’s had been. His tiny fuzzy limbs pushed against her chest in an attempt to break free, but she clung to him carefully. “Your husband asked us to keep you a puppy, this little one has been waiting for you.”

Yuuri instantly fell in love. He opened his arms to the little bundle of fluff that pushed against his glasses, covering his face in a hundred licks of affection. His heart swelled with affection, cuddling the puppy tight to his chest as he thanked the woman.

“No need to thank me,” she whispered, turning back to the house. Yuuri attached the collar around the puppy’s neck, tucking his squirming body under his arm awkwardly as he did so, before returning to the car. The drive back was significantly harder than the journey up here, with the puppy bounding around the back of the car, but Yuuri didn’t mind in the slightest.

When they arrived at the apartment, a package sat outside the door. Inside the large box was a soft bed, a handful of toys, feeding bowls and some food. Yuuri set these up in the corner beneath the window, fed his puppy, and watched him while he pottered about the apartment curiously, before returning to Yuuri’s legs, begging to be picked up.

Yuuri obliged, and ruffled the little dog’s fur. As was usually the case, Yuuri cried, but this time, it felt different.

He wished this had been Victor’s first letter, but they both knew he wouldn’t be in any fit state to look after a puppy.

Slowly, he could feel the pain that was eating away inside him softening.

 

Life with his new puppy, combined with the rigorous training provided by Yakov, left Yuuri exhausted. But now he was developing a routine, and it was one he had to keep.

Every morning, Makka would sit on Yuuri’s face until he woke up at 8:30 sharp, demanding the bathroom. From here, Yuuri would stop at the coffee shop next door to his apartment block, and every day he would order a vanilla latte, sickly sweet for his own tastes but Victor’s favourite.

Then, he would return to the apartment to get ready for training. He would warm up while he waited for his dog sitter, who just so happened to be Georgi’s new girlfriend. She was friendly, lovely, and enjoyed the company while she worked on her doctorate in Yuuri’s spacious apartment. While she spoke little English, they had a pleasant interaction every morning before he left, and Yuuri was happy that Georgi had found someone so interesting and wonderful. His happiness was tinged with jealousy, but he didn’t begrudge his fellow skater love.

His jog to the rink meant he passed familiar faces, and he waved and greeted each of them on his way. When he arrived, training began, and lasted well into the afternoon. From here, he would return home, where his puppy would be waiting to greet him at the door.

He was no longer alone.

While he still struggled to sleep some nights, now he would find Makka cuddled into his chest, and licking his face until he smiled again. And he did smile, because now he had a reason to.

 

As the summer faded into autumn, Yuuri grew anxious about returning to the ice professionally. Yakov knew he could do it, as did the rest of the Russian team.

But Yuuri felt it was too soon.

The press would have a field day. Barely six months after the loss of his beloved, after the figure skating world lost its best skater, and Yuuri Katsuki-Nikiforov was already beating his world records again.

No, it was too much. He would wait another year.

Yakov reminded him that another year would make him 27, a ripe old age in the figure skating world. Yuuri gently reminded him that Viktor was 29 and was nowhere near retirement before his diagnosis.

Yakov nodded, but continued to reprimand Yuuri for wasting his time.

There was no changing his mind though. He was adamant.

On the last day of September, Yuuri returned to his apartment to find a letter waiting for him.

A letter in the same ink he hadn’t seen for months.

His heartbeat increased, thumping in his ears. Georgi’s girlfriend, Layla, handed him the thick envelope, and promptly left when she saw his reaction. He was grateful for that, and sat down on the couch before he opened it. A couple of sheets of the familiar letter paper fell out, along with a large, legal-looking document, written entirely in Russian. Makka jumped onto his lap, wriggling slightly but eventually settling enough for him to read.

 

To my beloved Yuuri,

How is Makka? Is he as good a boy as our Makkachin? I know he will be, poodles usually are good dogs.

It has been a while since you last saw me, and again I can only apologise. Yakov warned me that you would become obsessive with this, that I would do more harm than good. Perhaps he is right, and I am selfish, and I should just burn these letters when I finish writing them. Maybe. I might do. I would have an excuse to make such a stupid decision, after all.

By now your hair will have grown completely out, leaving you with ridiculous frosted tips unless Mila rescued you, which I’m sure she will have. I would kill to see Yurio’s face when you turn up at the rink, a bright blue smurf. Ha! Can you picture it, Yuuri?

I suppose you don’t have to.

Today, I wanted to remind you of Hasetsu, your gorgeous hometown. I know you probably think of it every day, but indulge me just this once.

I think about how much better I would feel to sit in the hot springs with you, taking the nicest bath I have ever taken in my life. Those baths were the second best part about coming to be your coach, along with your mother’s fantastic cooking of course.

Relaxing with you in the steamy gardens, cycling past that same old fisherman every day on our way to training. How I wish I could have convinced Yakov to relocate!

I remember the seagulls, and the first day I think you realised you loved me. I can never be sure if that is the case, but the sea here, I can hear it even now, reminds me of that day when you opened up to me, and you trusted me. You always did trust me, even if I gave you a million reasons to hesitate.

One of my favourite places in Hasetsu, after the ninja castle, and the onsen, and the ocean, was Minako’s studio. The gorgeous panelled wood, the large mirrors, Minako herself, graceful and poised ready to teach. Your return to Hasetsu inspired the children there to return to the beautiful art, and as you now know, both Ice Castle and Minako’s studio are thriving businesses, where people flock to train on the hallowed ground that Yuuri Katsuki trained on.

Today, tonight, whenever you are reading this, I want you to visit Yakov. He has something to show you. Pretty soon, the other skaters, and Yakov, will be leaving for competition, and I can’t stand the thought of you alone in St. Petersburg, training by yourself.

I don’t doubt that you are hesitant to return to the ice, and while your body may be ready, your spirit may not be. And that is fine.

In your hands now is a plan B.

Yours forever,

Victor.

 

P.S. I love you xxx

 

The letter he had waited so long for was finally here. He had hoped for weeks, for months that Victor had more surprises for him.

And here, in his shaking hands, sat another surprise. He always did keep him on his toes.

Makka whinged, annoyed that he was not receiving any attention, so Yuuri mussed his ears while he attempted to read some of the heavy document now in his hands. He couldn’t understand a word of it, so he rezipped his coat, and clipped Makka to his lead, before heading out into the crisp evening air.

He would need Yakov’s help after all.

 

Yakov was already at the door when Yuuri approached his apartment block, waiting because he knew.

Yuuri wondered if he knew how long Victor had planned for him, but he was too afraid to ask.

Instead, they walked silently through the dark, keys jingling in Yakov’s pocket ominously. Curiosity gnawed in the back of Yuuri’s mind, anxiety fluttering in his chest. He was nervous, but for once it wasn’t debilitating. Victor had said all along this was an adventure, and this was clearly the next step. And it must be a big one, hence the suspense. He sometimes hated how dramatic Victor could be.

What on earth was next?

After five minutes, they arrived at a blue door, easy to miss nestled between a house and a convenience store. Yuuri watched Yakov carefully open the door, revealing a staircase to the sky. The puppy bounced out of the cold and into the light, pulling Yuuri along with him up the stairs, up and up until there was another door, this time glass, with gold lettering carefully printed at eye level.

 

Nikiforov, en Avant

Ballet Studios

 

Beneath this, the same was written in Russian.

Gently, Yuuri pushed it open, and stepped into the large, open space. To his left, the wall was made of glass, a view of the mountains behind the buildings spreading far and wide, crisp leaves littered across the green surface. The moon shone brilliantly in the clear night sky, catching the branches of the trees that shivered in the breeze. Opposite this was a large mirrored wall, split with a shiny gold railing a third of the way up. Along the ceiling, printed on the mirror, was the same swirling print that Yuuri stared at every night, with words of encouragement, the same words Yuuri had delivered in his wedding vows.

 

There’s a place you just can’t reach unless you have a dream too large to bear alone.

 

This was too much.

Yuuri turned on his heel, throwing the paperwork at Yakov and bolting.

He ran down the stairs, and through the cold streets, the wind pinching his cheeks bitterly as he followed the sound of the waves in the distance.

His breath comes in short, sharp gasps. This was the last thing he had expected. This was the last thing he wanted.

He thought Victor knew him better than that.

Makka was hot on his tail, his gangly legs barely working to keep up with his owner.

Running through the streets, crying as he was, he earned himself a number of strange looks. The people of his new hometown were mostly private, and ignored him politely while they walked with their loved ones, their children, all together, leaving Yuuri all alone.

The place he had spoken about nearly two years ago had been the top of the podium. With Victor, he was going to win gold, and continue winning gold, before Victor finally decided he was proud of him.

Until Yuuri realised what Victor’s dream had really been.

Before he knew it, he was at the ocean front, leaning against the brickwork and panting, clinging to the cold, wet stone and screaming out at nothing.

None of this was fair. None of this was right.

And yet, Yuuri knew, deep down, that it would have to do.

Later that night, or rather early in the morning, he returned to the studio alone, after dropping Makka off at home and collecting a bottle of the expensive wine Victor loved. He couldn’t sleep, so instead he walked to the studio, and it was a pleasant walk through the currently sleeping town.

He climbed the stairs, watching his step carefully in the darkness, and leaned against the mirror, watching and waiting for what he knew would come for him.

He had finished the wine by the time the sun rose, softly and gradually illuminating the dark studio as it creeped along the gorgeous panelled wood floor, slowly kissing Yuuri’s toes, his legs, his torso and eventually blinding him in its brilliance, the light reflecting from the mirror out into the room.

Tears silently rolled down his cheeks as he sat blinded by the light.

He thanked his love for his gift.

 

The ballet studio opened a month later, the Russian skaters returning home for a couple of days to attend the opening ceremony. To Yuuri’s surprise, they also brought two other skaters, Phichit and Chris.

It had been too long since he had seen either of them. Both had visited after the funeral, but both had to leave for their training. Yuuri didn’t begrudge them this in the slightest, but he wished he had appreciated their visits when they were here.

Phichit was the first to reach him in the airport, running at Yuuri, almost knocking him over as he threw himself into a tight hug despite his small frame. Yuuri smiled into his best friend’s hair, remembering fondly nights in Detroit where they held each other to fend off the cold of their dorm room. Weird, that he would remember this in the airport, but perhaps the nostalgia had gotten the best of him.

Then there was Chris, who was much softer in his approach, and held Yuuri at arms length before closing his arms around him, his chin on Yuuri’s head a painful reminder of the hugs he had missed the most in the last six months.

Yuuri yanked himself out of the hug, before flushing in embarrassment. Chris ignored this, reaching for their bags and following the Russian team towards the car park.

On the drive home, Yuuri talked for the entirety of the journey. He talked about the flowers he had ordered to brighten up the studio, about the advertisements he and Makka had distributed throughout the town, about the endless phonecalls he had received as a result of that, about Makka running away in the park, about the new coffee place that had opened down the road from his apartment.

And no one stopped him. Instead, they listened to the banal details of the life of the man who, not two months before, was a shell of himself.

This was an improvement, and for the first time since Victor’s death, his absence was not the guiding force of conversation.

As he parked, Yuuri continued to talk, taking Phichit’s bag and leading the group upstairs to his apartment. When the door opened, everyone stood and stared at what he had done.

“I’m sorry it’s only in Russian, I didn’t know you were coming,” Yuuri rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly, stepping in and allowing the other skaters to enter the room.

Across the window he had hung a banner, welcoming the skaters home. Balloons were floating around in the corners of the living room, and when he flicked the light switch, they saw that on the table, he had arranged four placemats and cushions, ready for a meal.

“Come in, sit down, I’ll get you two something to sit on,” he took the bags from Chris and lined them up against the wall, before gently closing the door, and disappearing into the bedroom.

Yuri sat down first, pouring himself a glass of what he assumed was sake and drinking it in one quick movement. Mila and Georgi remained silent, taking a seat opposite Yuri and doing the same. Chris and Phichit just waited, until Yuuri insisted they sit, before scrambling into the kitchen to collect some more placemats and bowls.

When everyone was settled, and Yuuri was the only one standing, he cleared his throat.

“I am sorry for springing this on you, and I know you must be tired, but I just wanted to, I wanted you to know how much you all mean to me,” he glanced at the floor, swallowing before he could continue. There was a lump in his throat, but he ignored it.

“I have been terrible, really. Not once have I asked how any of you are feeling, and not once have I thanked any of you for what you have done for me. Without you, without any of you, I don’t know what I would have done,” he stopped, the words catching in his throat as water spilled over his lashes. At the table, the skaters were silent, watching Yuuri as he tried to push past the tears.

“I do know what I would have done, but I didn’t. Without you, any of you, I would probably not be here today. And that’s not what he would have wanted. You, all of you, I know a meal and some wine is not the thanks you deserve, but it is a start. And I wanted to prove to all of you, and to myself, that I am getting better,” he whispered the final part. This was the first time he had had the courage to admit that to himself, but it was true. He was getting better. Piece by piece, he was fixing himself, and the man that Victor had known and loved was slowly returning.

The room sat in silence for a couple of moments, before Chris stood up, sake raised in the air, watery eyes defiantly smiling at Yuuri.

“To Victor,” he declared, watching the other skaters as they too raised their glasses, voices united in the same declaration.

“To Victor!”

 

The following months passed fairly quickly for Yuuri. He was busy with his new studio and the courses he had signed up to online to fill the gaps in his knowledge on keeping his own books and maintaining the business so that it survived its first year. When December came, he packed his suitcase, and caught a plane home.

Minako met him at the train station, much like she had all those years ago when he returned from Detroit. She pulled him into a bone-crushing hug, before turning her attention to the puppy that played around her legs.

She drove them to the Onsen, where Yuuri was reunited with his sister in the carpark. They hugged, briefly, before she led him into the main bar, where his parents had prepared his favourite dish for him: pork cutlet bowl.

They sat, and ate, and drank into the early hours of the morning. Makka ran around them, playfully nipping and nudging their shoulders whenever they ignored him for too long. Yuuri had dreaded this journey, but now he was here, it was as though he had never left.

When Minako left, and his parents had long since gone to bed, he sat with Mari, even smoking one of her cigarettes in the freezing garden, watching his breath snake out in front of him, silver and cold.

They sat in silence, watching the stars glitter in the clear winter sky. Mari was the first to speak, when she had smoked her first cigarette.

“We miss him every day,” she muttered, muffled slightly by the cigarette she was trying to light against the wind. Yuuri nodded, leaning back on his palms to look up at the sky.

“I know,” he whispered, the puff of white gone before he had even finished speaking.

Again, silence descended on the cool night air, Mari’s smoke floating in front of Yuuri’s eyes for seconds before evaporating.

Nothing more needed to be said. They both knew that. They had always had an unspoken bond, the two of them, and their silence spoke volumes.

 

Christmas was hard for Yuuri, but he busied himself in the onsen, clearing out rooms and watching Makka from the window, playing in the snow that the Nishigori triplets threw at him.

They had grown up now, they were nearly ten, and so tall. Yuuri had always imagined retiring with Victor and teaching them to skate, the two of them, on the ice with the three girls, laughing in a circle, as Yuuri’s hair grew grey with the stress of the three of them jetting across the world to win gold in a number of competitions.

They were to take over Yu-topia, after his parents, training the other skaters that wanted their coaching, and being visited by their own children and their grandchildren.

Yuuri didn’t realise that he was now stood crying in the window, watching his dog playfully tackle Axel to the ground, licking her face enthusiastically and her laughing, hysterical despite her defeat.

When they left, and Yuuri was left in his childhood room in the dark, he tossed and turned, unable to sleep despite being exhausted with shovelling snow all afternoon.

Images of children, with his hair and Victor’s eyes, swam across his mind, giggling while Yuuri pulled their hair into a long braid, or Victor tickling their sides and chasing them through the hot springs.

He gave up on sleep at around 3am, instead padding down to the family room where Vicchan was immortalised in photos and incense.

The room was different slightly, and when Yuuri stepped into the soft moonlight, he realised his parents had dedicated the altar to Victor.

Countless photos of his beloved were stacked in front of him, smiling down at him from the wall. Yuuri sank to his knees and bowed his head to the floor, sobbing onto the rug. He didn’t know how long he sat like that, or how long he had cried for, he just knew that the wounds he had carefully patched up over the past few months had been clawed open, raw and twice as painful as before.

Before the sun rose, he climbed back up to his room, curling up beneath his duvet, and closing his eyes.

“Vitya,” he whispered, hoping there would be an answer. “Vitya, this is so hard. It’s too hard.”

Eventually, hours after the sun had infiltrated his room, Yuuri drifted off to sleep, waking the following day with a heavy heart.

He prayed for another letter.

 

Shortly after the New Year, Yuuri flew back to St. Petersburg with the promise he would visit more often. And he would aim to keep his promise this time.

When he landed, there was no one to pick him up, but he did leave his car at the airport. The walk to the parking lot was long, and tiresome, but Yuuri was grateful for the sight of the blue car that would take him home. He just wanted to sleep.

Makka slept the entire ride home, and Yuuri turned the radio low, lost in his thoughts while he turned to drive along the ocean front.

He always drove the same way Victor had, involuntarily following the path Victor lay out for him. The low winter sun glittered across the sea, catching Yuuri’s glasses as he turned down the road that led to his apartment. It was true, Yuuri was never really a leader, and he always just blindly followed what Victor had told him to do. As a coach, that was a given, but even now, even after his death, Yuuri was still following the path he had been set.

And he wasn’t even mad. He was just disappointed in himself for not being able to try harder.

 

Spring came and went. Yuuri followed the skating on TV, cheering for everyone and crying when Yuri won gold for the third time that season. He recorded and re-watched the exhibition skate several times, rewinding and following the doubles skate with Makka in his arms, lifting his now too large dog above his head and laughing as they fell in a bundle on the sofa.

He video-called Phichit every single night, sometimes the call lasted ten minutes, others it lasted for hours into the night. It had started as a once a fortnight routine, but slowly, the calls doubled, and tripled, until they found themselves on the phone every night.

Yuuri’s ballet studio was a roaring success. Everyone wanted lessons with the infamous Yuuri Katsuki, the figure skater, and while many came for the Nikiforov name, those that stayed did so just for Yuuri.

The days grew hotter, the nights grew longer, and before he knew it, Yuuri had wiled away four months.

It was a week before the anniversary of Victor’s death.

And he had not even considered how he was to mark the occasion.

But, he should have known, Victor had.

Six days before the date, Yuuri received an anonymous envelope with a plane ticket to Barcelona in five days time.

He knew who it was from, and he knew he needed to go alone.

He roped Yuri into dog-sitting, packed his bag, and worked tirelessly through the week, dancing from sunrise to long past sunset to tire himself out.

He didn’t even make his phone calls with Phichit, collapsing in a pile on top of the covers every night until it was time.

Yakov offered to drive him to the airport, dropping him at the entrance and waiting until he had passed through the doors before driving off.

No turning back now.

He grabbed a coffee, and settled at the gate with his headphones in.

He had to do this.

 

The sun rose on a gloriously warm Barcelona, the temperature rising to about 25 degrees before 9am. Yuuri woke on that day, staring at the ceiling as he waited for something to happen.

Victor had booked the hotel for him, had planned the trip, so he was waiting for his instructions, waiting to be told what to do next. He didn’t have to wait long. A knock on the door startled Yuuri from his daydream, and he opened the door in just his boxers, looking down at the silver tray abandoned on the floor.

There was a breakfast of bacon and eggs, and a small card which was all he really cared about. It had five steps for him to follow, all of them fairly straightforward which would lead him to the place he knew Victor would take him.

He couldn’t eat, but did drink the coffee before dressing quickly, and walking out into the busy streets. It had been a while since he had been here, but the weather then had been significantly colder.

He wandered the cobbled streets, store vendors stopping him and offering him a variety of goods and services. He politely declined all of them, taking a left and following the guide that Victor had set for him, in the same swirly loop. He had also left an envelope that Yuuri wasn’t to open until he was where he needed to be, and Yuuri wasn’t one to deny Victor these little indulgences no matter how much he wanted to know what he had to say.

Eventually, finally, Yuuri stepped out into the dazzling sunlight to the open space in front of the cathedral steps. The gorgeous structure towered over him, and butterflies filled his stomach before they jumped to his throat, nostalgia tinged with regret, staining the memory.

He walked across the courtyard, clutching the envelope, before he reached the place, where he had led Victor in front of a choir of carol singers, where he had given him a ring, and indirectly asked him to marry him.

He smiled sadly, lowering himself to take a seat on the steps, and carefully opening the letter in his hand.

The familiar curvy writing which he had waited so long for was finally here, and his heart skipped a beat as he read the words for the first time.

 

Yuuri Katsuki, my love and my life, 

Your great adventure is almost over. I am not sure I can hide these letters from you for much longer, and my requests of Yakov are becoming more and more ridiculous.

It should have been one whole year since the worst happened. All I can do is profusely, pointlessly apologise for the hurt I must have caused when I left you. You were my soulmate, my life, and I know that I was that for you.

You made me the happiest man that cold December night in Barcelona, when you slipped that ring on my finger, and made me yours forever. You didn’t have to say it, I knew then that what we had was real. We were real Yuuri, and all I needed was you.

I didn’t think it could get much better than that, but the following spring, a year and four months after we had gotten engaged, and six months after your first gold medal, you made me yours in front of all our friends and family. Together, we sealed our love forever, and I am so glad that what I had left of my life was spent with you as my husband.

26 is a terribly young age to become a widower. You will carry that with you for the rest of your life, I know, but that does not mean you are broken. I hope this year has shown you that it is not weakness to accept the help of those around you, but that it actually makes you human. You, Yuuri, are alive, and you have the love of those around you until the day you die, whether you like it or not.

As I said before, your adventure with me is almost over. The hardest adventure of your life, however, is just beginning.

This is going to be my last letter, and it holds one last, long request, the hardest yet.

You have given me, in the short time we had, the greatest gift I could ever imagine, and I will always be grateful for you, my Yuuri. Life and love are two things that I left behind to skate, but you showed me that I could have both, that I deserved both.

Now this is my gift to you, and I hope you accept. I know you will, because I always did have you wrapped around my finger, didn't I, my love?

Choose life, Yuuri. Your task is to keep on living for me and for you, and know that I will be with you every step of the way, loving you and waiting until we can be together again.

And with that, you know the next part, you must choose love. You may feel as though you will never find love again, but the reality is that you always had love all around you, and you still do. Your friends, your family, and now your beautiful dog Makka, who will now probably be the same size as our dear Makkachin. But out there, somewhere, is someone very special, who will walk into your life when you least expect it, and remind you of the way I used to look at you.

And while they may not be as handsome as I am, just know that you deserve to be loved. And you will be, because who couldn't love you, Yuuri? 

This was the second hardest thing I have ever had to do in my entire life. The first was leaving you, and I will always be sorry for that.

Just know that I have loved you with every fibre of my being, and a love like that can light the sky.

I hope you can find happiness again, I need to know that you can do that.

And I know you will.

Yours forever and always,

Victor x

 

P.S. I will always love you.